Remarks by Deborah Vahanian: “Celebrating 50 Years” Exhibit Opening

On May 4, 2024, Glass Growers Gallery had the opening reception for its “Celebrating 50 Years” Exhibit and a recognition ceremony. Owner of 47 years, Deborah Vahanian, shared the following remarks:

“Life has a way of talking to the future. It’s called memory…To solve the future, we must save the past.” Overstory by Richard Powers

I spent 46 years of my life running this gallery. I spent two and a half years as a nomad up and down the west coastI am grateful to be back in ErieToday, we gather to celebrate a significant milestone-GGG’s 50th anniversary. This is a testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone involved. When I look around Glass Growers Gallery, the devotion to presentation and quality is evident, and it fills me with immense pride.  

Glass Growers Gallery vibrates like a perennial plant ready to blossommore abundantly. It continues to be the core of creative garden indowntown Erie. 

Emily, I thank you for tuning that vibrancy to a level of elegance, playfulness, and skill. You do it with such devotion. That you care for the traditions I established fills me with pride and gratitude. GGG was and is a business that balances sound economic practices with a sincere passionand respect for the arts. Its rich, complex history illustrates this.

The seeds of GGG were sown in 1974, thanks to the visionary outlook of John Vahanian. His foresight and belief in our mission laid the foundation for what GGG is today. I was fortunate to build upon this vision with the unwavering support of John Vanco, Tom Doolin, Julie Chacona, Bob Austin, Don Alstadt, Joe Popp, Tom Hagen, Linda Stevenson, Rich Holmgren, and many moreAlong with my family, their trust in G’s mission was pivotal. Each one of you, our close colleagues, family, and friends, has played a significant role in this journey. I am grateful to Ed Grout, my life partner for 28 years. He never questioned my late-night work and always provided sustenance without asking for explanations

We cannot have any celebration without recognizing our deep gratitude to my daughters Melissa Estep, Ivy Vahanian, and Vanessa Vahanian. Their invaluable contributions helped me manage and imagine GGG. Whether as children playing in the hidden doll house in our first store at 2nd and Plum, as teenagers reluctantly helping mom unpack American crafts or hang a show at 7th and Holland, or as adults challenging the business habits employed at 10 E. 5th St. Our journey has been a mix of conflict and cooperation, teaching me the true meaning of bittersweet dedication, sacrifice, and opportunity.

I recognize the ongoing power of connection with mdear friends George and Judy, Rob and Dar, Tim and Mary, John and Kelly, Tom and Cathy,Patty and Chris, as well as hundreds of artists, advisors, and the many GGG staff members employed over the years. (please raise your hands to be recognized).

Emily has continued to employ three of those staff members.  

Erin Green, Noreen Finn, and Sue Martin. Kathleen Gausman continues the story of connection because she met her husband at GGG. Sue’s positivity and indefatigable joy is genuine and renewing. She has been a beacon of light and lightheartedness, rarely succumbing to judgment. Her lust for life may seem naïve, but it is infectious.

Along with Emily, they are now the heart of GGG.

As the celebrated author David Brooks said, “We are all vulnerable and need each other's support to thrive. His insight encourages all of us to pay attention to the deeper and more elusive motivations that seek connection, fusion, service, and care. These are some of the underlying currentspracticed in our homes, institutions, and businesses, businesses like Glass Growers Gallery. 

Of all these connections, there are two other important ones: the customers and the artists. You matter to me. You matter to Emily. To all thecustomersI am in awe of your loyalty, acceptance, and supportI thank you as does Emily every day. To all the artists in our community and, in particular, the ones in this showYou have offered me life-long memories and endearing friendships.

Susan Stone: the reverence you assign to your work is rich with texture and symbolism. You taught me patience is a virtue. You taught me violets love constant low light and little water. You taught me family is essential.

Joyce Perowicz: You are the 50th anniversary of gold in my life because you shine, you glimmer. Even when you expressed self-doubt, it has rarely,if ever, prevented you from exploring the new, creating atmospheric work. But more important to me is that you offered me an atmosphere of trust and steadfast reliability.

Jack Coville: your devotion to elegance and playfulness goes hand in hand. Especially if you have a pet to keep you company along the way.

Marie Spaeder Haas: you’re the personification of reinvention, living proof we can all reinvent ourselves no matter the age or situation. 

Annoel Krider: you taught me that love is the opening door. Love is what we are here for. And that the simple act of sitting on a dining room chair and looking outside yourself can sometimes be enough.

Eddie Mitchell: To hear you say in response to me asking, ‘How are you?Loving life, Deb, loving life. You live in the high chiaroscuro of expression and a soulful divinity. 

Jan Lutz: you taught me the essence of contemplation and to find beauty in the smallest of earth’s creatures. You taught me that nature heals.

Greg Zbach: you have accompanied me as an artist and a friend for many years. We have created a support system that goes beyond opportunity and import. Because of our friendship, I stop and smell the rushing waters of a creek and see opportunity simply by sitting on the mossy boulders alongour trail of life.

Tom Ferraro: that captivating smile is not the smile of a car dealer; it is the smile of a gentle, genuine human being who is sophisticated, friendly, and curious. I love seeing the wonder of our world through your fracturing, overlays, and reflections. You are the master of the masters that inspire you.

Noreen Finn: Your expressive intent through symbolism gets me every time. If ever I could be with someone and never have to say a thing and still be understood and appreciated, it is with you. I wouldn’t be here without your loyalty, devotion, and love.

John Vahanian and Edward Groutoccasionally, we are the three musketeers traveling along energetic parallel lines that rarely, if ever, arc when they crisscross. I count my blessings each day for knowing you are both present and you care. 

If the only legacy I leave is to let you know you matter. In knowing that, I hope you sense you have accomplished something greater than yourself, greater than the individual youIn that soulful existence, we create the personality and purpose of our community. Together, may we see our creative garden grow.

Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to shine so brightly and so continuously.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.