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May 12, 2000

UW-RF Art Professor in Smithsonian Exhibition

By Nancy Guse
UW-RF News Bureau

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls recently had his glasswork displayed at the 18th Annual Smithsonian Craft Show-Crafts for the Millennium, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Professor James Engebreton was one of the 120 artists whose work was chosen by jury to participate from among 1,650 applicants. He displayed about 70 pieces of his artwork, ranging across a variety of sizes, shapes, and imagery. Engebreton is known for his carved and sandblasted work. He uses traditional glass blowing techniques combined with more contemporary processes to create one-of-a-kind and limited production pieces.

Engebretson started working with glass in 1968 and fell in love with the materials and process, and 32 years later he stills enjoys it. Engebretson said of his nomination, "It is an honor to be selected. I look forward to being in the company of my artistic peers."

He attended graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design. After graduating he opened his own studio in Vermont and five years later he moved to Hudson and started teaching at UW-RF. Engebretson teaches part time at UW-RF and at the University of Wisconsin System Field Station at Pigeon Lake. The rest of his time is spent in his studio.

Engebretson feels that it is hard to think of glass in a solid form, since glass is a very fluid material. He says, "The fun part for me is creating something out of a liquid material."

Dean Gorden Hedahl of the College of Arts & Sciences at UW-RF said, "Jim creates fascinating and very impressive glass pieces that deserve recognition. Inclusion in the Smithsonian exhibit is an individual accomplishment, but it also reflects very positively on the department and University. UW-RF has an outstanding glass program with many fine and productive faculty, alumni, and students. Our undergraduate glass studio is unique and this selection indicated that some of the best work in the county is being done in River Falls."

The glasswork that Engebretson displayed is a result of a unique working, creative partnership, with his wife Renee. Each of them plays a distinct role, with James developing the form for the glass and Renee creating the surface design. Together they participate in about seven fine art shows around the country each year. Other recent accomplishments are a Fellowship from the Wisconsin Art Boards and a commission from Northwest Airlines for a glass piece that is installed in the SeaTac airport in Seattle, Wash. Their work is also featured on the front cover of the 2000 Wisconsin Art Museum and Gallery Guide.

Steven Cox is another local artist who was a student of Engebretson also be displayed his work at the Smithsonian

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