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Monday, April 12, 2021

Canberra Glassworks ‘thrilled’ to reopen fully this week

From Wednesday 16 September, the entirety of the Canberra Glassworks will reopen to the public for the first time since closing in late March.

The Glassworks have remained open for artists with strict guidelines in place throughout the pandemic, with only the hotshop shutting down momentarily, given glassblowing carries the highest health risk of activities conducted at the venue.

Over the past several months, their gallery and shop reopened to allow people at various limits to pass through, a winter school holiday program ran in July, and a number of creative workshops recommenced in August.

From this Wednesday, visitors will be welcomed back onto the hotshop viewing platform and engine room.

Canberra Glassworks CEO Julie Skate told Canberra Weekly they have staggered their reopening deliberately, with their first school group of about 80 visiting earlier this month.

“That was fantastic, we’ve really missed all the noise … we were all out of our offices watching and listening to the children.

“There’s a sense of normality as we’ve made these steps to reopen; it’s feeling more like it used to be and I think everyone is excited.

“There will be some artists who enjoyed not having anyone around,” Skate smiled. “But a lot of them are super friendly and enjoy chatting to the public.”

With many of the protocols and measures already in place to ensure the public can begin visiting again safely, the final touches now include some custom-made signage and several infra-red people counting cameras “going in at a huge cost”.

Skate said the cameras will be necessary due to the size of the facility, the congestion points at the hotshop mezzanine, gallery and shop around the glassworks, and their modest staff numbers.

“Within two seconds it tells us how many people in the building in each site at any time … We’re a very small staff and it wouldn’t work for us to be out checking, we just felt this was necessary.

“It’s about safety more than anything and our staff at the front desk feeling as though they have some control.”

Some of the custom signage going up will explain why artists working in the hotshop do so without maintaining physical distance.

The protocols in place for artists to use the hotshop mainly centre on use of disposable mouth pieces on the blowpipes and more general sanitation measures.

“That’s a responsibility we’ve put onto the artists, and so far has been working really well.

“They determine who their teams are. Very rarely is a person on their own, there’s at least an assistant or up to five.

“We just needed some signage to explain that is why they aren’t maintaining physical distance. They are managing their health themselves.”

Artist talks will also recommence with the first on Thursday 17 September involving Glassworks artist-in-residence Peter Nilsson and local glass artist Kirstie Rea.

Tony Albert’s exhibition Duty of Care will continue to be shown until 27 September.

For more information, visit the Canberra Glassworks website here.

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