“The Michigan Glass Project’s (MGP) mission is to unite the artistic glass community through charitable events that showcase the talent and culture of Michigan.” More specifically, MGP regularly provides a unified space where astonishingly talented, world renowned artists can join together for a common goal: Networking and creating with each other to give back to the community. Nonprofits receiving support from MGP has varied over the years, but as of 2015 MGP has been raising substantial sums of funds for Art Road Non-Profit (donated sum in 2015 alone was 80k). Art Road is a Michigan 501c3 Non-profit, currently providing art classes to 1,270 students throughout Southeastern Michigan that previously lacked art in their curriculum.
CULTURE had the pleasure of speaking with Allison Key (32), the incredible woman who is the undoubted powerhouse behind Michigan Glass Project, learning the fascinating story behind who she is and how this all came to be. “I come from a family of helpers. My mom (Marianne Carniak) is a therapist in the drug court system; she plays a very active role in helping addicts recover their lives instead of facing jail time. My dad (Gordon Key) is a lifelong glassworker, who has always given himself and the shirt off his back to those who need it. Literally, I came back to a booth of ours at 10,000 Lakes Festival to find him bootless and shirtless because he gave his things away! They’ve both instilled in me in their own ways, a mindset that that if something needs to be done, you do it. You don’t complain or put it off, you just do the job because its what needs to be done in that moment. And they’ve also showed so much compassion and love to everyone around them that it was naturally instilled in me and my three siblings,” said Key.
“The glass companies that donate supplies for the event are run by many people that are like you and me working hard to build their companies. They’re not multi-million dollar corporations with money to throw around to sponsor a bunch of events.”
A major influence for what Michigan Glass Project has become revolves around the mindset everyone had living in Detroit during the time. “The city was empty. We literally did whatever we wanted; no one was watching us. The art/maker scene was a huge. We all loved making stuff, we loved partying, and we loved being together,” she said. “There was no separation between borosilicate glassworkers and soft glassworkers. If you were making art in the city, we wanted to be with you. We had to have that hustler mentality in Detroit; working hard as fuck was the only way to be able to stay.”
There are obviously many artists and humans who have made major contributions in time, talent and energy whose efforts should also be acknowledged alongside Allison’s. “Relatively speaking, the glass industry is a baby when compared to others,” she said. “The glass companies that donate supplies for the event are run by many people that are like you and me working hard to build their companies. They’re not multi-million dollar corporations with money to throw around to sponsor a bunch of events. I recognize their extreme generosity even though it may have been tough for many of them at times. It means a lot to have them back us and come out to the event and to be there when I call not only as a sponsor but as a guide and friend to me as I’ve grown into my place as an event organizer in this industry and as MGP makes its mark as an important glass event.”
To further support the MGP mission this year, all friends within a driving distance of Detroit are invited to attend Festivus on December 17, 2016 from 4pm-2am at the 11:11 Warehouse in Detroit to join Key and the MGP team for a Holiday Market with dozens of local vendors, live glassblowing, live music, silent auction and raffle. Allison shares the root to this 4th annual holiday event, “Festivus started as a holiday party in our shop and this year we has evolved into a charity event (naturally!). We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the community from folks who want to see more than one annual event. So this year’s Festivus is us getting our feet wet in adding a one-day December show that starts to mimic the main MGP event.” An exciting way to continue to give back to the maker-community in Michigan; vendor-friends were invited to participate at low cost.
The future for Michigan Glass Project and Art Road Nonprofit is bright. MGP has already committed to Art Road for their 2017 event. “The sky is the limit now with the artists; I feel like we have the entire borosilicate glass community backing us now and if they can be at the event they will be. I’m so thankful for that.”