Metro-East Living

Glass artist returns to Midwest Salute to the Arts

Artist Nina Miller started with a clear glass sheet, arranged strips of colored glass on top of it, fired it in a kiln, shaped it into a mold, then fired it again to get this wavy piece.
Artist Nina Miller started with a clear glass sheet, arranged strips of colored glass on top of it, fired it in a kiln, shaped it into a mold, then fired it again to get this wavy piece. News-Democrat

Tiny scratches cover glass artist Nina Miller’s fingers. Some longer cuts mark her arms. It’s the price she pays for working woth glass.

“I keep a lot of Band-Aids around. There’s always blood when I’m scoring the big sheets (of glass),” said the 59-year-old from Olivette, Mo., who discovered her most prolific and creative outlet during a school volunteer project.

“I did my first kiln-fired glass 10 to 12 years ago when two of my sons needed gifts for their teachers,” said Nina, who comes from a family of musicians and has always been drawn to the arts. She and another mom took a class and ended up making 34 plates for all the teachers.

Nina’s interest has never waned and she continued her education with other classes.

Working in glass is a bit like quilting, which she has done, she said.

“You have these colors and designs and patterns and you figure out how to fit them together.”

Nina is among 100 artists who will display and sell their work Aug. 28-30 during the annual outdoor Midwest Salute to the Arts in Fairview Heights.

Nina is a former executive in computer ticketing who switched to rearing her three sons. This is her second year at the juried festival, which draws artists from around the country. She and her husband Steve and their family lived in Glen Carbon before moving back to her St. Louis hometown 15 years ago.

“It was my first real show,” she said last week as she unpacked some of her undulating plates and vessels for photographs. “I was really impressed by how they do things. They really pampered the artists.”

Her work typically starts with a special base piece of transparent glass that is cut to the size of a mold in which she shapes the glass. On it, she lays strips and pieces of colored glass. A basketweave pattern, for example, takes time and patience as she layers long spaghetti-like strips one on top of another. Then it goes into a gas kiln, fired to 1,480 degrees, she has in her basement studio.

When it comes out of the kiln, it’s all one layer, melted together. She places it in a mold to shape it and puts it back in the kiln.

“It does what is called ‘slumping,’ when it takes the shape of the mold.”

Nina says she “almost never makes the same thing twice. That’s the beautiful thing about glass, the infinite number of opacity, color.”

She also makes jewelry, from pendants and bracelets to cufflinks and earrings, from dichroic glass. Dichroic glass has reflective qualities that make it appear to be different colors depending on the angle at which you see it.

She considers her work reasonably priced, with many pieces in the $25 to $50 range, which appeals to many of the show-goers, she said. Prices can go up to $175 for custom orders.

She looks forward to packing the car and heading across the river.

“I get to meet my audience,” she said of Salute to the Arts and other art shows she attends. “I spend a lot of time by myself and that’s lovely, but I love to tell the story” of the creation of a piece.

Sharon Kassing, the show’s volunteer director since 1999 said this is the 27th Salute to the Arts. The Salute’s medium categories include clay, mixed media, wood, drawing and printmaking, oil and acrylics, fine craft, photography, glass, sculpture, jewelry and watercolor.

What’s new this year?

“Our expanded hours on Saturday. Our patrons will be able to take advantage of the evening hours (to 8 p.m.),” Kassing said. The show previously closed at 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Plus, there will be the co-mingling of food and art for the first time as the Feast in the Park food court is integrated into the Artist Gallery. Feast in the Park will feature food and beverages from local vendors and organizations.

In the Children’s Interactive Station, a caricature artist/illustrator will be on hand for the first time. Entertainment from live bands to dance performances, as well as clowns and jugglers for kids, also will be part of the weekend’s activities.

And don’t forget to stop and see the display of artwork from the clients of Trinity Services in Mascoutah. Called ART by Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, Southwestn Illinois director Mike Lowry said 10 to 20 amateur artists have created quilt designs on plywood and heavy-duty foam board. While they cannot sell the work at the show, the pieces are for sale.

“So, if you see something you like, let us know. Contact us,” said Mike. Money from the sale of the pieces, ranging from $50 to $250, will go back into supplies for the art center. Get more information at 618-566-4200.

ART is part of Trinity’s Adult Learning Program and is supported by the volunteers of the Abundant Living For All Foundation, a local non-profit organization of families and friends that works with Trinity to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.



6:30-10 p.m. — Rogers & Nienhaus


10-11:30 a.m. — Carrier Tunes, Acoustic Stage

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Revence Band, Classic Stage

1-2:30 p.m. — Louis Michael Trio, Acoustic Stage

2:30-4 p.m. — Acoustic Rough Ryders, Classic Stage

4-6 p.m. — Dave & Greg Show, Acoustic Stage


10:45 a.m -noon, — Lisa Jones, Acoustic Stage

Noon- 3 p.m. — Well Hungarians, Classic Stage

3:30-4:30 p.m. — Mark Biehl Group, Acoustic Stage

Children’s Interactive Creation Station


9-11 a.m. — Dooley the Clown

10-11 a.m. — Bubble Bus

1-2 p.m. — Jza-Jazanell

3- 6 p.m. — Spoon Man

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Randall Spriggs, illustrator


10-11 a.m. — Dooley the Clown

11 a.m - noon — Bubble Bus

11 a.m to 4 p.m. — Randall Spriggs, illustrator

1-2 p.m. — Juggler

Children’s Gallery

Each of the 100 professional artists have donated two pieces to the gallery.

Children ages 3-11 enter the gallery and choose a piece of art, free from parental influence. After the child has selected a piece, they are encouraged to visit the artist who created their piece to find out how it was created. The cost to enter the gallery is $5.

Student Art Link

See artwork submitted by children in kindergarten through eighth grade from metro-east schools, choosing their own theme and medium.

Midwest Salute to the Arts

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Moody Park, Fairview Heights

Admission: Free

Information: and on Facebook

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