Formerly the bottom of a shallow sea, the pine-carpeted flatlands of Southern New Jersey are laced with huge deposits of silica sand — the main ingredient for glass making. Fired by the surrounding forests of pine during the 19th century, the furnaces of more than three dozen glassworks made this Cumberland County region one of the world’s leading centers for industrial glassware production. Today, the legacy of one of the largest of those now-defunct glass companies — Wheaton — is The Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center and its Museum of American Glass. Map
Over the last fifty years, the creation, gallery exhibition, and sale of high-art glass works has greatly accelerated, driven by vibrant centers of the glassblowing craft in places like Seattle. In the 1970s, Wheaton moved to become a major player in that field by building a working replica of the original pine lands glass factory of its founder, T.C. Wheaton, complete with glowing furnaces and support programs for highly talented glass artisans. Ever since, the Wheaton Arts workshops, museum, and gallery have been both a tourist destination as well as a highly respected studio and educational facility. Its Creative Glass Fellowship program has so far boosted the careers for more than 370 emerging and mid-career artists from around the U.S. as well as the world. Its annual Festival of Fine Craft brings large crowds to an event featuring 150 exhibitors.