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A unique memorial honoring the late internationally known KY glass artist and educator, Stephen Rolfe Powell now stands at Centre College in Danville where Stephen lived and worked for 30 years. Owensboro native, Brook Forrest White Jr., is one of Stephen’s former students and also owns Flame Run Hot Shop in Louisville. Brook had a vision to honor his friend and mentor, and that has been brought to life through this collaborative project with several other former students of Stephen’s. This Memorial serves as a landmark where locals and visitors from around the world can come to celebrate Stephen’s legacy.
Two years after Stephen Powell passed away, some of his former students were talking and realized there was no headstone or memorial to honor Stephen yet. That’s when Owensboro native Brook Forrest White Jr. approached Centre College about a wild idea to pay homage to the larger-than-life artist and educator and his profound influence on those who knew him.
Brook, a protege, former student and close friend of Stephen’s, led the design and construction of the Stephen Rolfe Powell Memorial Sculpture Garden and Outdoor Classroom at Centre College, a project driven by his vision to create a place that honors Stephen’s life, work and teachings. Now with the support of several former students, donors, and Stephen’s family and friends, the vision came to life.
The Stephen Powell Memorial Sculpture Garden features a 25-foot-tall steel and glass sculpture that spectators can walk through, as well as a garden, a walking path, three custom-made artistic benches, and a small amphitheater that serves as an outdoor classroom and campus gathering space. The sculpture, titled Soaring Renegade Peacock, is made of stainless steel crafted by Louisville artist Dave Caudill and large colorful glass discs made by Brook and his team at Flame Run. Its shape is reminiscent of Stephen’s iconic glass vessels. The entire sculpture is lighted, and an illuminated circle that incorporates shards of Stephen’s pieces lays in the ground beneath the towering piece. Other former students of Stephen’s who helped create the sculpture and benches include Louisville artists Paul Nelson, Paul Hugues and John Stokes.
Stephen Powell is acclaimed and collected around the world, and the Smithsonian Museum even has one of his pieces for their collection. But his impact was most profound in the small community of Danville, KY where he lived and worked for more than three decades. He founded a hot glass program at Centre College that became a major draw for the institution and the town. In 2003, he helped found a community art center, an organization which has since grown to become a regional artistic hub as the Art Center of the Bluegrass.
Quote from Brook:
“Stephen Powell inspired and influenced a great number of his students, friends, and peers. After his untimely death, I felt it was important to create something in his honor to recognize the impact he had at Centre College, in the Danville community and in the glass art world. I envisioned a special place with a dynamic presence; a space that invites visitors to follow the color and discover a bit of Stephen’s personal vibrancy. In many ways Stephen was larger than life. I wanted to “pull-off one last Steve project, in true Steve style”! With the help and encouragement of a great team, my vision has come together and now the Stephen Rolfe Powell Sculpture Garden exists. I hope the sculpture, surrounding garden and outdoor classroom reflects some of Stephen’s energy and personality.”