Featured role

By Eric Gallippo

Glass artist’s work the new star of Riverwalk’s lobby

Opinions were somewhat divided last Thursday afternoon in the lobby of Lansing’s Riverwalk Theatre. Was an army of iridescent spiders rushing in wave formation toward theater manager Mike Siracuse, or a benign family of horseshoe crabs about to be hoisted into the stratosphere?

This kind of viewer-generated projection is part of the fun for artist Craig Mitchell Smith, whose abstract glass creations almost always produce onthe-spot Rorschach readings.

But the Lansing artist wasn’t collecting answers for a college psych class final project. He was readying his latest work, a chandelier for Riverwalk Theatre’s lobby, for aerial suspension.

The piece, titled “Star Power,” plays on the cobalt blue glass pieces’ celestial look when lit up, as well as the onstage brilliance actors aim for up the hallway. Smith has designed sets for the community theater company for nine years.

The chandelier consists of 13 pieces, each drilled with three holes and hung from clean airline cable. Each piece is about as big as Smith’s 41-inch-long kiln will hold and required two 12-hour firings.

In addition to the 13 days of plotting and firing pieces, Smith also had to construct his own hanging system. Last Thursday, he was working with a friend to map out the arrangement on the floor before stringing them up.

This was the largest chandelier he has done, and the hanging took about 10 hours Thursday and Friday. “The installation went off exactly as I anticipated,” Smith said. “I ’d never done one of these at this scale before, so I just obsessed over it.”

Riverwalk board member Sandy Norton, who is also Smith’s neighbor, donated the money for materials for the piece, and Smith volunteered his time. Smith said if he were to sell a piece of this size, he would ask about $7,500.

The chandelier is a bit of icing on an already sweet expansion project at Riverwalk completed last summer, which included the addition of a new black box performance space, a renovated women’s restroom and an expanded lobby.

Siracuse seemed giddy, albeit cautious, as he helped Smith bring in the fragile artworks from his truck before he got started. “This is just a wonderful addition to Riverwalk’s lobby,” he said.