Thursday, December 28th, 2006
By Janie Southard
Glass artist strives to cultivate creativity in area art students
  ROCKFORD - Glass artist James Michael Kahle and some local volunteers have thrown out a challenge to the community to bring inspiration to reality via a new group, Arts for Community Enrichment (ACE).
More than 3,000 area students have come to Kahle's studio during the past decade for a two-day course on glass and glass blowing.
"When they come in, they're quiet and shy - nervous. Then I give the safety lecture and scare the hell out of them to get their attention focused on safety ... But when they leave, it's heads up and shoulders back, and an attitude of 'look what I did,' " Kahle told The Daily Standard last week surrounded by the swirls of color and shapes of the finished glass pieces on display in his Rockford gallery.
Hundreds of area adults, families, Scout troops, corporate groups and just plain walk-ins have come to Kahle's studio over the past nine years for the Hot Glass Experience.
Describing himself as an aging Hippie, the nationally-recognized artist said so far the cost of the students' classes has come out of his own pocket, sometimes directly sometimes indirectly.
Kahle's large pieces and many smaller ones have a market value of thousands of dollars. The small paperweights and simple vessels the students create can be viewed as a priceless investment in fostering the arts, something public education does not or cannot fund effectively, he said.
He recounted the times he's gone into area schools to ask for funding for arts and has been told no because the school has to make budget cuts.
"Well, I wonder if I should call the athletic department and extend my sympathy that they can't buy footballs because of these cuts," he said, narrowing his eyes slightly.
Over the years, Kahle has given his pieces to various high school art departments with the intention that they may choose to auction them in order to support students' art classes. At least once a school auctioned the piece for a substantial amount of money, but spent the proceeds on programs other than art.
According to the ACE news release, the group is looking for financial support from the community to keep Kahle's classes available to local students.
"We have formed a not-for-profit organization to foster teaching, promotion, recognition and accessibility of the arts for the enrichment of the community ... And, let me just say, James Michael Kahle will not personally receive a penny. It's all for overhead," Kahle said.
Arts for Community Enrichment is located in Rockford. Kahle serves as president, Jane Suzuki is vice president. secretary is Mary Coons and treasurer is Jim Kemmler.
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