CHICAGO — Founder Trish Tullman Atha of Ignition Community Glass doesn’t mind putting 4,000-degree torches in the hands of teenagers who aren’t old enough to vote.

“They kind of step back and say, ‘Wait, are you going to trust me with this?'” said Toulman Atta. “It’s just that someone really trusts you with molten glass at 2,000 degrees. They see such an opportunity in themselves.”

Ignition Community Glass was founded nine years ago to help teach teenagers in Chicago’s underprivileged neighborhoods the art and science of glassmaking. Tallman Atta’s son, Ben, discovered the medium as a young man, during what she described as a dark period in his life.

“The teacher called and said, ‘I’m worried about your beautiful boy and I think I can help,'” Tullman Atta said. – This teacher was a glass blower.

Thirteen years ago, Ben Tullman co-founded Ignite Glass Studios in Chicago’s West Loop, an art space, gallery and glass production facility. Art lovers can purchase sculptures and tableware in the studio gallery at the front of the building, while torches, firing tools and a 2,000-degree oven burn brightly in the back.

“We do custom orders and work a lot with local restaurants,” said Eleanor Harvey, artist and instructor at Ignite Glass Studios. “We are currently working on a large order for an essential oil company.”

Trish Tulman Atta said Ignition Community Glass was created at Ignite Glass Studios as a way to prioritize positive change in her son.

“A light bulb went off and I said, ‘Wow, let’s do youth programming,'” said Toulman Ata. “I really felt that there are other young people besides Ben who are struggling a lot in their lives.”

Jalen Pittman said he did a complete 360-degree turn after participating in the Ignition Studio Glass After School Matters program in high school. He now works at Ignite Glass Studios as an artist and instructor.

“Glass is intimidating at first,” Pittman said of the unpredictability of the medium. “Sometimes we get lucky like that and it’s like the beauty of being a glass artist.”

Students in ICG programs can learn about glassblowing, fused glass, and advanced students explore fire: using a torch and glass rods to create unique pieces. Tallman Ata said thousands of students have been attracted to ICG, and many standouts have gone on to pursue fine arts degrees to work as professional glass artists.

“The transformation that can happen; forged in the heat, forged in trouble and adversity, and what can come out of it,” said Toulman Ata. “I’m very excited about the future.”

For more information on Ignition Community Glass, visit icg-chicago.org.

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