Six questions for Michael Hernandez
1. Tell us about Mike Hernandez.
I was born and raised in Emporia, having spent the first 22 years of my life there. I began in glass at Emporia High School under Alan Keck, who still runs the program along with ceramics at EHS. He was really excited about the medium and his students. So that gave me both a positive beginning and a bit of a leg up once starting at ESU.
2. Why did you choose ESU to begin with?
I started at ESU with the idea that I would stay long enough to get my prerequisites out of the way. After the start of my sophomore year, I decided to major in art, specifically glass. I was really excited about the potential with the material, but the renovation of the program’s structure (physically and academically) by the newly hired professor, Patrick Martin, gave the glass studio and major an increased appeal.
3. Do you see any kind of special connection for ESU’s glassblowing program in Kansas?
It’s a sweet little gem. Patrick has really worked hard to get the program nationwide prominence, and it’s working. As I go to places each year, more and more people are familiar with ESU’s glass program. This is due to the impact that both Patrick Martin and Roberta Eichenberg have on their glass students. The students are pushed to look outside of their own little bubble in Kansas and involve themselves and their artwork in the larger glass world and art world. Things like the Millenic Glass show and the prominent visiting artists that are brought in really make a mark on students and people within the glass community.
4. You completed your graduate degree at a prestigious institution—Alfred University—how did your ESU background prepare you for grad school?
Alfred (Alfred, N.Y.) is ranked second in the nation for college/university glass programs and tenth in the nation for art graduate schools (US News and World Report, 2008). My experience at ESU gave me a good understanding of the importance of creating well-made works of art. There was a good deal of emphasis on craftsmanship and techniques vital toward making strong aesthetic work.
5. Talk about your job at Ball State.
My position title is Glass Facilities Manager. This job has many facets, and this is part of what interested me in the position. It’s not the typical “shop tech” job that exists in many programs. I work more or less as half-technician, half-professor. So, I also teach classes as well as shape the curriculum for a program that just opened its door for the fall semester, Ball State’s first Master of Fine Arts degree.
6. What about contemporaries—students or colleagues of yours from ESU who’ve done notable work since graduating?
A few individuals who were in school over the time I was there come to mind. Brent Sommerhauser (BS 1997, BFA 1997) creates interesting works in sculpture that have been shown at some prominent galleries around the country. Stephen Protheroe (BFA 2004) works for the top hot glass studio equipment manufacturer in the U.S., where he plays a vital role in developing state-of-the-art, energy-efficient furnaces for schools and individual artists. And Jason Forck (BFA 2005) has been teaching and motivating high school students as well as developing glass programs at Pittsburgh (Pa.) Glass Center.