Honors Course Explores Glassblowing Traditions and European Culture

Michael Hengler, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, took 13 students to Europe for block seven during the spring semester.

Student Group in Glass Studio

Students and instructor Michael Hengler toured and learned from glassblowing and working masters across Europe.

The 26-day trip and honors course, “Tracing the Dissemination of the Venetian Glass Tradition Northward,” was designed by Hengler with the intention for students to be immersed in European culture, food, history and the art of glassblowing.

The UMW Foundation provided Emerick scholarships to qualifying students for the study abroad course. A silent auction was held at the Elks Lodge and the supportive community of Dillon helped make the trip possible for many students.

Emerick chaired Montana Western’s Art Department from 1925 until her retirement in 1968.

When Emerick passed away in 1981, trusts totaling over $700,000 were willed to Montana Western from the Emerick’s estate.

One of the trusts was designated for annual art student scholarships with the request to fund scholarships annually for new and returning art students and others were directed toward books and equipment to advance campus art programs.

This fund now exceeds $3 million, giving art majors the opportunity to work in state-of-the-art facilities at Montana Western with advanced equipment and technology including the recently renovated glassblowing studio.

Students can receive a certificate, associates, or bachelor’s degree in Glass, with either a specialization in Scientific Glassblowing or Artistic Glass, depending upon their interests and the classes they choose to take.

Emerick’s generous gift is the largest donation ever given to the university.

Elizabeth Finley was one of many who received the Mary Baker Emerick Travel Scholarship.

“Experience One at Montana Western allows students to focus on one course at a time and engage deeply within that subject. This teaching style was beneficial to my experience traveling abroad. My education exceeded the classroom and I was among glass masters of Italy and several other countries while experiencing new cultures, traditions, and glass techniques,” said Finley.

Venice, Italy was the first destination at the beginning of the journey for Montana Western students in the spring honors course.

Students began their studies in Venice, Italy, then traveled north to Austria, Germany, and completed their adventures in the Czech Republic. While traveling, often by train, they explored various towns, stopping at museums, glass schools, studios, factories, and restaurants.

Students were expected to shoot their own photography and create three reference sketches of the glass work they were studying for the day.

“The goal was to research. They observed and learned during the day and then referenced peer reviewed source material that they could apply to research papers further exploring what they had observed at each location in-depth,” said Hengler.

Students were able to observe and learn from master glass artists and technicians during the 26-day course.

Various students stayed longer to work with glass blowing masters in Europe. Alida Troxell headed off to Europe a week before the group met up and stayed an entire month afterwards. She spent her time at museums, festivals, and learning about the culture while engaging with locals.

“The trip helped me experience myself more from my travels alone and being with a group. I will always remember my time spent with the local people exploring their favorite places and making glass with the masters,” Troxell said.

Several students stayed in Europe after the honors course ended to continue their glass studies and participate in one-of-a-kind internships.

For more information about Montana Western’s Glassblowing facilities and program, please visit the Fine Arts website.

To apply for the Mary Baker Emerick Scholarship, all current Montana Western art students and incoming art and glass students need to complete UMW’s scholarship application by January 1st each year. For more information about applying for admission to UMW for new students, please contact the Admissions Office at admissions@umwestern.edu or call 1-877-683-7331.

For questions about the scholarship application process, please contact Foundation Director Roxanne Engellant at roxanne.engellant@umwestern.edu or call 406-683-7305.

MORE STORIES