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Corning, New York: Art, rich history, & intricate details

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Some of you might know Corning as the company that makes glass, which is true, but aside from the glass history, Corning NY is home to a vivid art community, variety of museums, healthy food scene, and of course, a few breweries and vineyards.

For over 150 years the wineries of Corning and Southern Finger Lakes have been attracting attention. One of the first wineries in the region was Pleasant Valley Wine Company. Dating back to the 1860s Pleasant Valley was one of the few vineyards that survived prohibition producing sacramental wine. For the normal folks, however, there was concentrated grape juice that came with strict instructions on how ‘not to’ make wine with it. Today Pleasant Valley remains open as a winery and a historic destination.

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The two cultural staples in Corning are The Corning Museum of Glass, of course, and the Rockwell Museum, both located within walking distance from the Historic Gaffer District. At the center of the District is Market Street where you could spend a solid couple of hours shopping, visiting art galleries, and exploring the Chocolate Trail.

Rockwell is an art museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, and home to a fantastic collection of traditional Western and contemporary Native American art. This year is a 40th anniversary year and to celebrate the occasion Steven & William Ladd curated a special gallery. The Ladd brothers work with beads and things they make with those beads are simply mind-blowing, quite a few of those mind-blowing pieces were custom made for the Rockwell and those alone are worth a visit. The permanent collection features exhibits focusing on “Art About America” and the pieces explore people, land, and ideas about the making of America from cowboys, to wonderful portrayals of the Native Americans and a fascinating new collection of Katsina Dolls.

The next few hours of the day were all about exploring the Corning Museum. Admittedly I had my reservations about prioritizing time out of the trip for a museum of glass but it was undoubtedly worth it. Let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a museum for plates and glassware, the said glassware and other trinkets can be found at the gift shop but they are not the focus of this space.

The museum showcases 3,500 years of glassmaking history. The newest space is a contemporary art and design wing where you will see large scale glass pieces that are simply breathtaking from Cerith Wyn Evans’ talking glass chandelier (Morse Code) to Javier Pérez’ chattered bleeding chandelier and everything in between that is not chandeliers such as special works by Mat Collishaw, Beth Lipman and otherworldly contemporary artists. Throughout the day you can view various glass-making demonstrations and even make a thing or two yourself. I am currently patiently waiting for my glass bead to arrive.

Though it might be hard to pick a favorite room in the Corning Museum mine just might be the wealth of Blaschka’s pieces on display. The Blaschkas (Leopold and his son Rudolf) produced insanely intricate glass models of soft-bodied undersea creatures that were near “perfectly true to nature” and used in Cornell University for educational purposes in the 1800s.

This story is a part of a weekend-long 4-part story: A weekend in the Finger Lakes.

To see the adventure through Instagram look up #XOFingerLakes.

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