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Burnsville Installs Glass Telescope

TRAC Burnsville Telescope Crew. Photo by Jack Mackie

The Burnsville Gateway Project’s first of three telescopes will be installed this month at the west end of Burnsville. The 22-foot tower was designed by Seattle public artist Jack Mackie and created by artists from Yancey and Mitchell counties. In conjunction with the installation, the Burnsville Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) Gallery will present Glass on Fire, featuring work from the artists and an explanation of the project, from Saturday, May 19, through June 16.

“Jack asked the artistic community in and around Penland to help build the glass telescopes,” says Courtney Dodd, one of the project’s artists. “Many times he talked about how important it was that the community be a part of what he was constructing.” The other contributing glass artists are Loretta Forde, Nick Fruin, Rob Levin, Kenny Pieper, David Wilson and Hayden Wilson. Spruce Pine metalworker Remy Hannemann created the mesh exoskeleton that encases hundreds of blown glass orbs that form the cylindrical, three-tiered telescope. The telescope will be lit internally by solar-powered LEDs.

“This is a unique sculpture project and should serve as a beacon to welcome people to Burnsville,” says Levin. “I love how it brings together elements of the arts, history and science of the area.” Burnsville is named for Admiral Otway Burns, a NC naval hero who became a Pamlico Sound lighthouse keeper. Yancey County is also home to the Bare Dark Sky Observatory.

“I am honored to be able to work on this project that will, in the end, project the importance of art and craft not only in our area but for public places in general,” says Pieper.

Burnsville will host a dedication for the telescope in July, when TRAC’s Spruce Pine Gallery presents Sphere of Influence, highlighting the accomplishments of WNC glass artists.

To learn more, visit or call 828.682.7215.

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