Art by the lake: Erie, Pa., is awash in possibilities

Gwen Woolf

From beach glass jewelry to historic theaters, Erie, Pa., is awash in possibilities

Like a siren call, people are lured by the mystery, beauty, and uniqueness of beach glass. Who knows where that piece of glass came from before it was tossed a thousand times by the sea waves? Two sisters have taken advantage of the favorable pH levels of the Great Lakes to make exquisite art jewelry from beach glass found along Lake Erie.

Jennifer and Terri Reed operate their studio/gallery, Relish Inc., at 3835 W. 12th St. in Erie, Pa. They are so enthusiastic about the possibilities of this art form they sponsor the annual Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival at the Bayfront Convention Center the first weekend of each May. More than 70 vendors from across the country share their collections and knowledge at the festival, which also features artists, live music, and a “Best Beach Find” contest.

“Because of our geographic location, Erie makes it a perfect part of the country to hold such a festival,” said Jennifer Reed, adding that it is a “family-friendly event that incorporates art, science, the environment, and history.”

Relish Inc. is one example of the thriving arts and culture scene in Erie, a 365-mile drive from Washington, D.C.

Five restored mid-19th-century buildings and a modern expansion make up the Erie Art Museum, which includes a planted rooftop and other “green” features. The museum offers changing exhibitions on a wide variety of historical and contemporary art and a popular Blues & Jazz Festival, scheduled this year Aug. 6–7.

For a classy look at yesteryear, visit the Warner Theatre. Opened in 1931 as a movie palace, the ornate theater hosts 150 entertainment events a year. It is home to the Erie Philharmonic, Lake Erie Ballet, and the Erie Broadway Series.

Big-name concerts come to the Erie Insurance Arena, and the Erie Playhouse is recognized as one of the 10 best community theaters in the country.

Learn about the city’s role in Great Lakes history at the Erie Maritime Museum, the home port of the U.S.S. Niagara. The reconstructed “tall ship” pays homage to its War of 1812 history.

Take the kids to the expERIEnce Children’s Museum, where indoor and outdoor exhibits and interactive activities spark imaginations. Be forewarned, though: The chance to explore a cave or create a waterway for toy ducks may prove irresistible to adults.

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