Saluda artist inspires students through design of glass murals as public art project

Susan Cannon, Logan Bates, Susie Hearn, Jericho Thomas, Jeff Thomas, Suzanne Warrick and Caelum McCall are a team that has been working on setting up glass murals around Saluda since the summer of 2015. Each mural represents Saluda’s mountains, waterfalls and railroad history and will be permanent installations in the town after being unveiled at the Saluda Arts Festival.

Susan Cannon, Logan Bates, Susie Hearn, Jericho Thomas, Jeff Thomas, Suzanne Warrick and Caelum McCall are a team that has been working on setting up glass murals around Saluda since the summer of 2015. Each mural represents Saluda’s mountains, waterfalls and railroad history and will be permanent installations in the town after being unveiled at the Saluda Arts Festival.

Susan Cannon is an artist living in Saluda who has taken on a new public art project with two Polk County High School students, their art teacher, Jeff Thomas, and his son, Jericho.

The idea: to create three glass mural pieces to be placed at different locations around Saluda and unveil them at the Saluda Arts Festival at noon on May 21.

Cannon owns and operates Saluda Moon Glass Studio off of Greenville Street near downtown Saluda. The project began in the summer of 2015 when Cannon decided to implement in Saluda a project similar to one she did in Dayton, Ohio.

 

Q: What brought you to Saluda?

A: Initially, I only had a third of the studio you see here when I still had a house in Ohio. I always knew I was going to Saluda, even when I had a business up there. Two years ago, I guess it was January, I decided to move everything down here and I asked the owner of this building if I could have the whole building and I got the whole place to myself. Isn’t that great? I’m really loving it here. It’s wonderful.

 

Q: How did the art project get started with the high school students?

A: When I was in Ohio, several years ago, I was a member of this visual arts organization that was a nonprofit. They got a project with the children’s hospital to do art for the new wing. The director there asked me if I would be willing to work on that project and work with, not glass artists, but people who were painters, photographers or architects and I would teach them glass and we would make three installations for this children’s hospital.

I was pretty new at this and I was kind of a crafter at the time, but I said yes because it sounded really cool. I have to say it was the highlight of my life, and I wanted to do something like that here in Saluda. When I got here to Saluda and wanted my own studio here, I started reflecting back on that and I thought, you know, that was such a great experience and we don’t really have any public art in Saluda. We have galleries and restaurants that will display art, and there are a lot of artists in this area, but there’s no real public art.

 

Q: What is the process for this art project? In other words, what have the students learned from this?

A: I talked with Jeff Thomas, the art teacher at the high school, and got two fabulous senior art students to do this project with me. We meet on Sundays and none of them have done glass before so I taught them how to do straight cuts on the glass and now they are doing curves and it’s wonderful. We sat down and brainstormed the themes we wanted and decided one theme would be the mountains, one would be a train and one would be a waterfall.

The two senior students, Caelum and Logan, drew sketches and we decided what colors of glass to use and what the scale would be. We’re now at the point with two of them of how to install them and hang them up. We’ll start installing them in early May and do the actual unveiling at the Saluda Arts Festival. I think they’re learning a lot and enjoying it. And Jeff teaches me because he’s a problem solver and he knows how to fit things together like a puzzle. Plus, he lets the kids do the pieces and doesn’t try to control them when we’re working together. We have really let them drive this thing.

 

Q: After the students go off on their own paths following the unveiling of the murals in Saluda, what words of advice or inspiration would you pass on to them?

A: Oh, wow. I always preach to them to do what they love. I think the number one thing that every artist has to deal with is to never listen to the people who give you negative messages because not everybody appreciates what you do or knows where it is coming from. When I was in the corporate world as an executive, everything was about competition and I never thought when I got into the art world it wouldn’t be that way. It is that way, not quite so much, but artists do compete with each other. That’s one thing they have to be prepared for.

I would say, for them, they need to do whatever they feel compelled to do. Keep pursuing it and don’t always listen to what other people tell you, teachers aside. Don’t let people discourage you. Keep going. You have a voice that needs to be heard, and you need to keep finding out where that voice is taking you. It doesn’t end.

 

Q: Once this project is finished and unveiled, would you do another project for a different town or city?

A: Oh, yes, in a minute. I’m really going to miss it when it’s all over, but maybe another will come along. Absolutely.

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