Owensboro native leads project to create 25-foot sculpture at Center College honoring renowned glass sculptor


Originally from Owensboro, Brook White is thrilled to serve as project manager for the recently announced Stephen Rolfe Powell ’74 Memorial Sculpture Garden and Outdoor Classroom at Center College.

To celebrate the life, art and teaching of the famous glass sculptor, White had a vision to create a space on the Center College campus in Powell’s honor.

“He was a great mentor and such an amazing artist. So many people recognize his work. One of his pieces is in the Smithsonian collection; he was a big deal,” White said. “I wouldn’t have my studio or my career if it didn’t exist.”

When White, a 1991 graduate, was a student at the Center majoring in law, he would never have guessed that he would eventually pursue a career in art. He credits much of his success to the late Powell, who employed White as his glassblowing assistant.

“As an elective, I blindly signed up for a glassblowing class. By the end of the first class, I was part of (Powell’s) team and helped him do his job. personal,” White said. “I joke now that I have a blown glass minor, but that doesn’t exist.

After White was accepted to the University of Kentucky for law school, he soon realized his heart was elsewhere. A year later, he knew he really wanted to continue blowing glass, working for Powell as his art took off.

“I traveled with him – New York, Japan, many places – meeting other artists, seeing how the gallery world worked. His career was taking off during the years I was with him,” White said “He had three or four main assistants. I was the lowest guy on the ladder, and later I became the boss so to speak.

White is honored to see his dream of honoring Powell come to fruition, using the support of many of his former students, friends and family.

“We’re building a 25-foot-tall structure on a nice part of campus,” he said. “There is a view of the eagle and a view of the roof of the original studio. Sure, maybe it was my idea, but I put together a team like the Avengers.

After months of seeking philanthropic support, the project is almost funded.

“Because of Covid it took me longer to get traction. I kept knocking on doors and making phone calls. Currently, it is about 90% funded; with changes in supply, metal prices and wood prices are increasing every day. I budgeted once and now it’s a different number, so we’re still accepting donations,” White said.

The design was unveiled recently and the project started this month. It should be finished this fall.

“At first it was just a crazy idea, but I kept getting so much support,” White said. “As with most things Steve has done, I feel like I’m on a mission and that’s what I’m supposed to do.”


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