Stephen Rolfe Powell was born in 1951 in Birmingham, Alabama. After receiving a BA degree in painting and ceramics at Kentucky’s Centre College, he went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Louisiana State University. It was at LSU that Powell had his first experience in glassblowing. Glass has been a full-time obsession for him as a teacher and artist ever since.
In 1983, Powell returned to Kentucky to teach at his alma mater, Centre College in Danville. Hired to teach ceramics and sculpture, he set about establishing a program to teach his first love – glassblowing. By 1985, thanks in part to Corning Glass in Harrodsburg, Phillips Lighting in Danville, and Corhart in Louisville, he had built a glass studio and founded Centre College’s glass program, which has attracted students from all around the country. In 1997, again thanks to his previous corporate sponsors as well as General Electric in Somerset, Powell designed and completed a state-of-the-art glass studio, which opened as part of the new Jones Visual Arts Center in 1998. This new facility has allowed Powell to enhance his teaching by hosting visiting artists such as Marvin Lipofsky, and Lino Tagliapietra of Italy, among others.
Powell exhibits his work nationally and internationally. He has participated in workshops, demonstrations, and lectures all over the United States and in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, and New Zealand. One highlight of his travels was an exhibition of his work at Venzia Aperto Vetro in Venice, Italy, being one of only eight American artists invited to participate.
Powell has been honored with the Kentucky Teacher of the Year awards in 1999 and 2000, and in 2004 the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education presented him with the Acorn Award. Powell has also co=produced the film, Lino Tagliapietra: Glass Maestro.
As an artist, Stephen Rolfe Powell has been of seminal influence on the hot glass movement in Kentucky. Nearly all of the glass artists working in the state today have either been students of or apprenticed with Powell.
Works by Stephen Rolfe Powell can be found at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, at the Tobin-Hewett Gallery, and at the Chapman Friedman Gallery, all in Louisville, KY.