Rene Culler, Glass Artist, Mobile, Alabama

Rene Culler

Professional glass artist Rene Culler relocated to Mobile from Cleveland, Ohio in 2010 to lead the glass program at the University of South Alabama. Rene received her Master’s in Fine Arts from Kent State, is a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and was also voted one of the 50 top researchers in past 50 years for her knowledge of Kiln work.  Kiln glass work is formed colored glass that has been created is a new art form.  Rene also taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art and recently opened her studio here in Mobile where she teaches classes in kiln glass work.

I became aware of Rene’s artistry in 2017 when she presented “The Delta” at the Southern Abstraction show at the Mobile Museum of Art.  Comprised multiple styles of glass, the piece took her a year to create.  She remembers flying into Mobile and was fascinated by the colors and shapes of Delta from the plane window and she knew she wanted to recreate it in glass.

THE MOBILE DELTA: Glass & Light

BUILDING THE STUDIO

The Studio

In her studio in Mobile, which is housed in a former engineering office, she recently designed and built a large Kiln, a furnace used for heating the glass to temperatures of nineteen hundred degrees.  She is a woman of many talents, which includes welding.  She learned the trade while in school. It was expensive to buy a furnace so the students learned to build the tools needed to work the glass.  She also has a sandblaster, for blasting glass as well several smaller kilns which are lined with fire brick.  Her wall of Frit, or colored glass, in the studio is not only functional but attractive. She explained that, “Kiln glass work can be done on your own, but blowing glass, you need help to do.”

Kiln

With blowing glass, she explained, “Your body can only put up with so much.  There’s a rush when working, you want the opportunity to create something.”  I asked her how did decided what to charge for a piece. “You can’t charge what it’s worth. Two hours and thirty years,”  She laughed.

Blown Glass

 

Magic Square

She is very interested in pattern tile and created a magic square which is based squares she has seen in Asia.  The squares are based on the phases of the moon. In the 1400’s astronomer’s assigned numbers to the stars, if you add the numbers on the diagonal, you get the same number. She said,   “We can’t survive without numbers. The future is all about numbers.”

HISTORY OF THE ART

She told me about Dale Chihuly, perhaps one of the most recognized names in the glass world, he had received a grant to teach people how to blow glass in 1971. With the assistance of sixteen students the group built shelters and a glass blowing furnace at an old tree farm in Washington State. When there was no money to do a second year, Chihuly found a sponsor who owned the tree farm in order to continue the program.  This is now the Pilchuck Glass School, which is one of the world’s top schools for glass artists.

INSTALLATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE

Rene has created many installations for hospitals and libraries across the county. She has been told that people “Like her work because they see different things in it.”  She has pieces in both of the Cleveland’s teaching hospitals.  One San Diego hospital told her not use too much red in the installation, they wanted calm colors because the color and shape affects each individuals emotions.

Art for Sale

She has travelled throughout the world and did her Fulbright scholar work in 2012 in Korea. “Art is a big deal there.” She blew a lot of glass while in Korea and was able to show her work in Seoul. “I really enjoy learning about other cultures, Learning about the philosophy behind what they do what they do.”  While there her husband began to learn and read Korean which was not an easy task.

AUTHOR, AUTHOR

Rene is also an accomplished author with “Glass Art from the Kiln” and the forthcoming “Imagery in Glass.”

https://www.amazon.com/Glass-Art-Kiln-Rene-Culler/dp/0764335421/ref=asc_df_0764335421/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312172766117&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17624136912040013281&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9012995&hvtargid=pla-597604742844&psc=1

What does the artist love about glass?  “It’s a great experience, magical stuff.  To take something from the earth is opaque and make it transparent.”  Transforming glass is just “Another idea of a common material that is taken for granted.” She said.

Mosaic

WHERE TO FIND RENE

Seek out Rene’s work or experience one of her workshops at her studio at 2468 Commercial Park Drive, Mobile Al 36606.  On December 1, 2018, Rene will host a Holiday Open Studio and Sale event from 11-4.

http://www.reneculler.com/wp/

https://www.facebook.com/ReneCullerGlass/

 

Max Morey, Man behind the Crescent Theater, Mobile, Alabama

 

Crescent Theater in Downtown Mobile

 

On November 1, 2018, the Crescent celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a party for the Crescent supporters with a showing of Bottle Shock. This was the first movie that debuted for the reopening of the theater on October 31, 2008.  I recently spoke with Max Morey about the history of the theater and what lies ahead for this popular downtown Mobile movie venue.

 

Max Morey

 

 

Max, who is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, was working in the casino business in Biloxi when he came to the Mobile for a college basketball game and was immediately drawn to the City .  He soon relocated here and began working with business partner, John Switzer, developing residential properties in downtown Mobile. When the City approached them with the idea of reopening a downtown movie theater, they jumped into the project, researching the buildings’ history at the University of South Alabama archives, so they could be true to the Crescent’s past.

THEATER HISTORY

The original Crescent Theater opened in 1885 as a vaudeville theater then was updated in 1912 to show silent films. In 1937, the name was changed to the Century Theater which closed in the 1970’s.  In 2008, after a renovation, the Crescent Theater reopened its doors to its Mobile patrons.

“We call it an art house,” Max told me as we discussed the films coming soon to the Crescent. “There’s no plan. I try and get what I can.”  He selects films he likes and knows the patrons will like them too. “I’m trying to get happy films.”  Though at times working with the film studios can prove to be a challenge.

“A single-screen theater is a recipe for disaster.” Max said.   “It can’t be a successful business in and of itself, it needs community support and the community has rallied around the Crescent.”  Max explained.  When the theater faced closure a few years ago, he told the city of the situation.  He is very thankful for the individuals that got together and had a fundraiser to keep the theater open. He said he didn’t see that coming. “The Crescent Film Society is very important to the theater and keeping it going.”

Max says there is always dip in ticket sales in both the summer and the fall when the weather is good and everyone wants to be outside.  But the Crescent’s ticket sales have shown a gradual increase in these past 10 years.  In fact, he has as many new customers as he does regulars.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT

Community engagement is important to Max and the Crescent. Charles Morgan, of Chuck’s Fish sought out Max to tell him that the Crescent was the reason he was building restaurants in Mobile.  “Every progressive city in America has a single screen theater in its heart.”  Charles told him.

Max also lavished praise on the Mobile Downtown Alliance, “I’m the President of their fan club. They work quietly behind the scenes for every positive thing we have. Without them, we’d be back in the 1970’s.  Nobody has given them an award, the city ought to.”

Crescent Theater

You can find Max at the Crescent daily, interacting with local business people that stop by to check on his stock of beer and wine for his customers or local patrons in search of a good afternoon movie and a brief chat.  Max is enjoying life. “I’d rather have people’s friendship than money in my pocket.” He told me.

 

 

Come downtown to the Crescent and see a movie in this unique part of Mobile’s movie past and future. You are sure to enjoy a fine film and good conversation.

UPCOMING FILMS

The upcoming films for the Crescent are: Green Book, The Return of Mary Poppins and Mary, Queen of Scots.  Get those tickets now!

https://www.crescenttheater.com/