Greg Owen Award: Museum of Glass Honored by Hilltop Artists

On October 4, 2022, the Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team was honored with the inaugural Greg Owen Scholarship Award at Hilltop Artists’ annual Better Futures Luncheon. 

Greg Owen was a dear friend of Museum of Glass and a regular presence on the Hot Shop floor for many years. During his time with the Museum, he worked as the Manager of Audience Engagement & Hot Shop Heroes, answering audience questions and providing insight into the Hot Shop Team’s work as an emcee and teaching basic glassblowing techniques as an instructor for Hot Shop Heroes, the Museum’s program for veterans and active-duty military. Owen also gave generously of his time to Hilltop Artists, emceeing the Better Futures Luncheon, assisting on their hot shop floor, mentoring young artists to become emcees at Museum of Glass, and doing all that he could to share his expertise with the students. 

Greg Owen

Owen sadly passed away from brain cancer in the fall of 2020. In their description of the award created in his honor, Hilltop Artists wrote, “[Owen] was an inspiring role model, demonstrating a zeal for life, a love of nature, and deep empathy for his fellow humans. One way we seek to keep his fire burning bright is through this award, a reflection of his legacy.” 

“Greg Owen was an incredible friend to our organization - to our students, to our staff, and to me personally,” said Dr. Kimberly Keith, Executive Director of Hilltop Artists. “Greg was serious about his craft, whether it was glass, paper, or whatever material he was experimenting with, and he was also serious about making and maintaining relationships. He was kind, a good listener, and enjoyed teaching and mentoring. He actively passed on his knowledge and skills, and he did these things selflessly. I admired and loved him very much. I see the Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team carrying on his legacy with our students. They share their knowledge and skills, they’re professional, and, at the same time, they have a sense of humor and fun. They show our students what is possible, in terms of both building a career in glass and becoming caring adults and mentors. The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team makes a positive difference in the lives of our students, and they embody the spirit of Greg Owen. That’s why we chose them to receive this award.”  

Museum of Glass Hot Shop Director Ben Cobb accepting the award from Hilltop Artists Executive Director Dr. Kimberly Keith at the Better Futures Luncheon. Photo by Lisa Monet.

Museum of Glass Hot Shop Director Ben Cobb, who accepted the award on behalf of the Hot Shop Team, said, “Greg was so much to so many within our community. While he is fondly remembered for his dulcet tones on the microphone, he also focused his time mentoring the youth at Hilltop Artists, something we are still passionate about and continue to do here at Museum of Glass. What’s important to myself and the Hot Shop Team is the opportunity that we’ve had to mentor and teach the students in the Hilltop Artists program over the past 20 years. I like to think that we can help inspire passion and drive through this partnership, and that we have created a place where the young artists who find themselves on our doorstep can come to us for teaching, rounding out, and grounding, through both glassblowing and the building of soft skills.”   

Hilltop Artists and Museum of Glass have worked in partnership for more than 20 years, since before the Museum opened to the public in 2002, thanks in large part to the connection forged by Dale Chihuly, who co-founded both organizations. Hilltop Artists students have worked throughout the Museum from its very first internship program to the present, from the Hot Shop, to the galleries, to the Education Department, and beyond. “These relationships are important to foster the aspirations of our youth and to enhance the positive organizational cultures in both institutions.” Keith said. “Hilltop Artists’ mission is to connect young people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds with better futures. We are making glass art accessible to a wider community of young people, which diversifies the sector, which is significant when we reflect on how many centuries the glass art community has been predominantly white and male. Our programs develop the whole student - meaning we focus on building strong team members who are critical thinkers, who can communicate verbally and non-verbally, who have resilience, who appreciate and respect other team members. The Museum of Glass team demonstrates what is possible for our students if they continue to make glass art, and so did Greg Owen. As long as our partnership continues to be strong, the sky’s the limit!” 

The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team is deeply grateful to have been chosen as the inaugural recipients of the Greg Owen Scholarship Award. “Any time you lose someone close to you, whether they are a family member or a friend, it’s painful, and it continues to be painful for many years. This award was a total surprise. My reaction in the moment was joyful tears, but there was really nothing I could say that would have been coherent and not had the whole room in tears along with me,” said Cobb. “Greg was such an important part of the Museum, the local glass community, and the greater glass community. He was one of the first artists in the Museum’s Education Studio when we opened in 2002, and he really set the bar so high for the role of Hot Shop Emcee. His voice was everywhere. It still is, in a lot of ways, which I find comforting. We are very honored that Hilltop Artists chose all of us down here at the Museum to receive the first ever award in Greg’s memory. We’re working together to decide how to use the scholarship in a way that celebrates Greg’s legacy and the things he loved. It means a lot.”

The Museum of Glass Hot Shop Team (left to right: Sarah Gilbert, Gabe Feenan, Ben Cobb, Kristin Elliot, and Nick Davis) with the Greg Owen Scholarship Award plaque.

Thank you to Hilltop Artists. Catch the Hot Shop Team working with Hilltop Artists each Third Thursday at Museum of Glass.

Community, Hot Shop, NewsBryn Cavin