Remarks by Emily Ernes: “Celebrating 50 Years” Exhibit Opening

At our “Celebrating 50 Years” Exhibit opening reception on May 4, 2024, we had a recognition ceremony to honor previous owner Deborah Vanahian, Founders Deborah and John Vahanian, and 10 artists who have worked with Glass Growers consistently for over 20 years. Current owner Emily Ernes offered the following remarks at the event:

Welcome to our Celebrating 50 years exhibit reception. I’m the current owner Emily Ernes and I thank you so much for celebrating this occasion with us.

The GGG Gals have been excited for this upcoming milestone for a while now. Over the past few months, we have been enjoying the chance to delve into the history and incredible legacy of GGG in Erie. We’ve also had fun integrating lots of 50 year gold tones and unique, mesmerizing elements like the Kaleidoscopes and terrariums into the gallery! 

Two current members of our amazing team have been a big part of that history, with Suebee celebrating 14 years with GGG and Noreen celebrating 25 years on both the artist and staff side of things. I am grateful to both of them for ensuring a smooth transition of ownership in 2020 and for their incredible kindness, support, and dedication over the years. 

I am also grateful to Debby for giving me the confidence and information to take the leap of faith in assuming ownership at an uncertain time and to the artists and community for welcoming me with openness and kindness. 

As owner for the past 3.5 years, it fills me with gratitude, pride, and purpose to have the opportunity to lead this special place into its next chapter. All of the care and creativity that has been poured into it has created a certain magic that is enjoyed and appreciated by many. 

Now, I have some recognitions to make and want to start by honoring Deborah Vahanian, the co-founder and fearless leader of nearly 47 years, with a message developed by the GGG gals:

“Your passion for art and incredible leadership and insight has inspired us all. It's an honor to celebrate this milestone with you and to recognize all that you've built with gumption and care over the past five decades. You are truly a force and have made a remarkably positive impact on countless lives. Your outstanding impact on the Erie arts community will be felt for many years to come.” 

We also have a message for GGG co-founder John Vahanian:

“We are grateful that your incredible glass art inspired the first studio and gallery space at 2nd and Plum. That beautiful space you and Debby created filled with reclaimed wood, plants, glass art, and more created a stunning aesthetic and set a beautiful foundation for the years ahead. Thank you for your part in building and growing GGG over the years and for being a source of positivity and artistic expression.”




Now, as we enjoy the exceptional work in the exhibit around us, I would like to recognize our 10 featured artists. A message from the team:  

“Thank you for sharing your artwork with us and, by doing so, creating a space where artists and art lovers alike can come together to celebrate creativity. We love the opportunity to be among the first to see your recent creations and to learn about your inspirations and how your process is evolving. Art plays an important cultural role by allowing individuals to feel inspiration and connection to the internal world of others and to explore life’s big questions. This human connection element is a powerful thing and one we always love the opportunity to witness.” 

I will be presenting certificates and a gift bag to each artist. These bags include a GGG history t-shirt, a terrarium cookie made by my mom Cathy Ernes, and a Purple Heart kaleidoscope. With the kaleidoscope, we wanted to bring in the GGG purple and represent the way that the creative and refracted version of seeing the world is similar to how your artistic vision allows others to shift perspective and identify interest and intrigue in the world around them. 








First up, I would like to recognize Thomas Ferraro, who has been exhibiting his work at Glass Growers for 20 years following his first solo exhibit in 2004. His often large scale paintings are incredible to experience in person and provide a deep level of contemplation and commentary on the society around us. In his time with GGG, he has sold 36 works

Next, I would like to recognize Greg Zbach, who has been exhibiting at Glass Growers for 21 years. His vivid color photography has been a consistent gallery favorite and his most recent exhibition in 2022 featured his impressively rendered digital art- some of which is also featured in our 50 year kaleidoscope display currently. In his time with GGG, he has sold 552 works.

Next up is Noreen Finn, who started showing her work at Glass Growers around the same time she started working as a GGG Gal in 1999. In addition to her wonderful painting, she also brings her artistic skills to the gallery in many different ways as she curates and presents the ever-changing artwork and merchandise on display. The rest of the team and I wish she would find the time to paint more often, but she keeps herself pretty busy with her time here and taking care of many animals with her family on their hobby farm in Edinboro. As far back as our current records go (about 2003), she has sold 80 works. 



Eddie Mitchell has been with GGG since 1991, marking a 33 year connection. Utilizing a mix of techniques and inspiration from different artistic movements, his vibrant colors and textures and vivid rendering of light have consistently brought a sense of joy and optimism to our gallery space. He also radiates positivity and is always ready with a joke or two when he visits the GGG gals. Since 2003, he has sold 66 works.

Next up we have Joyce Perowicz, who has been with GGG since roughly 1984, totaling 40 years. She works in a variety of media and Impressionism has a strong influence on her style. The Peninsula is a big source of inspiration for her work and she is very much recognized for her lake scenes, signature bold blues, and depictions of irises. As far back as our records go for half of that time, she has sold 321 works

Annoel Krider has been with Glass Growers since 1983 and has been a part of many solo and group exhibitions over the years. As her artistic career evolved, she was a tapestry weaver, stick sculptor, and then painter. Her signature works are identifiable by their beautiful use of color, texture, and pattern. As far back as our records go to 2003, she has sold 25 works.

As our longest-standing artist connection in the group, Susan Stone has been with Glass Growers for 45 years since 1979. Her mixed media work integrates a variety of elements to create magical pieces filled with captivating colors and textures. In the past 21 years, she has sold nearly 100 works.

And 3 artists who are unable to be with us today:

Jan Lutz has been with GGG since 1995. Her skillful works in a variety of different media are stunning and the nature themes prevalent in her work relate to her dedication to environmental activism and conservation. In the past 21 years on record of her 29, she has sold 86 works.

Jack Coville has also been with GGG since 1983. His paintings are abstract images inspired by nature that feature many bold colors and employ a variety of painting techniques and textures. In the past half of his time with GGG, he has sold 36 works.

Marie Spaeder Haas has exhibited her work at GGG since 1986. She is an avid watercolorist who grew up and found inspiration on the shores of Lake Erie and she integrates her perspective as biologist and artist into her works. She enjoys incorporating textile techniques into her watercolors, as demonstrated in her featured pieces in this exhibit and has sold 31 works in the past 21 years.

Thank you very much again for joining us today and for your attention during this recognition ceremony. Please raise your glass in a toast to 50 years of GGG. I would now like to open up to the floor to anyone who would like to share a few words about what Glass Growers means to them.

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