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Kris Kerzman, Published February 02 2014

Fusing a partnership: Glass artworks benefit Rape and Abuse Crisis Center

FARGO – For something as fragile as a glass snowflake, the work of Perry Rust shows some remarkable strength.

Rust, an agribusinessman by day, creates functional artwork through the process of fused glass. High heat (usually topping out at 1,600 degrees) is applied to glass and used to manipulate, form and adhere it into multilayered shapes.

Rust says he became fascinated with the process after a visit about 13 years ago to a small gallery outside of London. There, he saw the work of fused glass artist Jennifer Barker, from whom he took a few lessons.

“I spent two days in her studio, and she showed me some of the processes. I was really hooked,” he says.

The techniques, as well as their outcomes, drew him in.

“Once you get into the process, you realize quickly that you have to understand the physics behind it, and there’s a certain learning curve,” he says. “I like the science behind it, and I like being able to understand it.”

There are plenty of factors to take into account, including the uncertainty of knowing how a piece will react to the heat and the long periods of cooling time needed, he says.

Rust has since built his own studio and creates pieces mostly during his free time, considering it a passion and not a profession.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking for a meaningful output for his work. Three years ago, he began donating his work to benefit the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead, giving the organization a couple dozen of his works to display at West Acres Mall to sell and keep 100 percent of the proceeds.

Kara Odegaard, the development director for organization, said the effort has raised about $5,000 since November, but for her the partnership with Rust has been about more than money.

She tells the story of how she spent about four hours on crisis intervention in the emergency room with an adolescent who had been raped, accompanying her through hospital and police procedures. She left emotionally drained and ready to go home when the phone rang. It was Rust, excited that one of the bowls had sold, and the exchange with him lifted her spirits.

“It goes to show you how sometimes we don’t realize the difference one person can make,” she says. “You witness the worst of humanity, and then you have people like Perry. Because of the depth of their spirit and the size of their heart, they give of themselves.”

Odegaard adds that the funds are used to fill gaps in care for their clients and could be used to provide counseling services for them or for their families.

“I’ve always supported RACC, and they do incredible work,” Rust says. “When you donate to them, the money goes right to the cause. I’ve served on enough nonprofit boards to know that fundraising is a big part of the process.”

The pieces sell for a variety of price points, from $70 for a snowflake to around $1,500 for a large, molded bowl. Alissa Adams, marketing director for West Acres, said their variety helps make them a popular item for shoppers.

“Every year, when we’re out putting them up, some always get sold on the spot,” says Adams, a proud owner of one of Rust’s works.

“My snowflake is clear, with black specks and shiny gold. I like it because it’s perfect, but also imperfect. I like how the light shines through it,” she says.

Odegaard is also an owner of one of Rust’s snowflakes and keeps it on display year round.

“They’re incredible pieces of art, and every little part of them is saving someone’s life,” she says.

If you go

What: Fused glass artwork by Perry Rust

When: On display through Feb. 14

Where: Buffalo Court at West Acres mall, 3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo

Info: All proceeds from work sold go to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, and its online publication, ARTSpulse. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net/artspulse.