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May 6, 2008

Art 812 (The Southern Indiana Scene): Check the art and culture in Corydon

by Amanda ArnoldYou hear a lot about gas prices, and subsequently about how cool it is to be a “tourist in your own hometown.” Sure, that’s chamber-of-commerce speak, but that doesn’t mean there’s not truth contained therein.    Consider Corydon, Ind. You have surely heard about it, but if you’ve never gone, there are more than enough interesting things there to justify the 30-minute ride out Interstate 64 (or the old way, if you prefer a more scenic and leisurely route).    People often do a double-take when they see the sign for Butt Drugs (115 E. Chestnut St., 812-738-3272). Trust us, they’ve heard all of the puns. It’s tired. What’s not tired is their old-school soda fountain. How about a vanilla cream soda?     There’s real history in Corydon, neatly symbolized by the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site (126 E. Walnut St., 812-738-4890), home of Indiana’s first state capitol (1813-1825) until it moved to Indianapolis, where it remains to this day.Not far from Corydon’s cozy downtown is the Zimmerman Art Glass Factory (395 Valley Road, 812-738-2206). The Zimmerman family moved to Indiana from Pennsylvania in 1925, and nary a Southern Indiana school kid or grandma lacks a Zimmerman experience, whether it’s a field trip or a paperweight with the distinctive “Z” stamped on the back.    Brothers Kerry and Bart Zimmerman learned glass blowing from their late father, Joe, who learned from his father and grandfather. Kerry and Bart have been in charge for 25 years now, still creating glass art inside a humble pole barn with 90-year-old jacks, pontil rods and other glassblowing tools.     “He was an artist and a craftsman because he could picture what he wanted to make,” Kerry said of his father, who once made a perfect glass knight piece even though he was unfamiliar with chess.    Now the brothers envision the pieces they create — paperweights, Christmas ornaments, baskets, vases, fruits and vegetables and more — but Kerry still identifies himself as a craftsman because “you got to know how to use the tools.”    Working with those glassblowing tools requires expertise, and perhaps most of all, balance. Even after all these years, Kerry said the glass occasionally falls off the pontil rod when he’s taking it in and out of the furnace.    There’s a repetitiousness to what they do, but that may be deceptive. “People ask if we get bored in here doing the same thing over and over,” Kerry said. “Not really, because each one is different.”    The Zimmerman brothers occasionally deviate from their usual bestsellers. Recently, the Harrison County Hospital commissioned them to create a 6-foot-wide sun with 100 pieces of glass rays of every color. That was definitely outside their norm.    “Work is not supposed to be fun, but there are times when you can actually be creative,” Bart said, noting that he’d like to make more sculptural pieces and wine glasses. “You don’t get much chance to do that, but it’s rewarding when you do.”The public is welcome to watch the brothers at work, Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. You can read about the factory at http://homepages.ius.edu/NHBREWER/Zimmerman's%20Art%20Glass%20Factory.asp.And there’s a ton of general info about Corydon and Harrison County at www.thisisindiana.org.Contact the writer at amanda@alongthewritingtrail.com