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GoggleWorks gets new executive director

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Levi Landis. Photo/Autumn Kern
Levi Landis. Photo/Autumn Kern

While still on the high of its 10th anniversary, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading announced a new executive director.

Levi Landis on March 1 will take the reins of the 145,000-square-foot, five-story community arts center in what was formerly the Willson Goggle Factory Building.

With nearly 15 years managing public organizations in central Pennsylvania and greater Philadelphia, Landis is finishing his post as director of business operations at The Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia.

During his tenure at the center, Landis managed the staff and was superintendent of operations. He helped to expand programming, launch new audience engagement initiatives, redesign financial and board development policies and develop new funds – including more than half of its $5 million capital campaign goal.

“Levi brings a creative and collaborative energy to GoggleWorks, and I anticipate that Reading and Berks County will greatly benefit from his enthusiastic vision for our organization,” said GoggleWorks board president Paul Cohn.

Cohn credited Wendy Kershner for being GoggleWorks’ interim executive director since Nov. 1. Prior to that, Phil Walz held the top spot since 2012.

WORKING SUCCESS

GoggleWorks came to life when in 2005 the abandoned factory building at the corner of Washington and Second streets was taken over by Reading department store mogul Al Boscov and his nonprofit organization, Our City Reading, and longtime Reading craft advocate and collector Marlin Miller.

The city and state backed the duo’s plan to renovate the historic building into an arts center and contributed partial funding for the project.

Since then, a capital campaign and volunteers, along with the artists, staff and board members, have helped to keep GoggleWorks a working success.

“GoggleWorks employs a protean approach to the arts, which inspires individuals to create and learn, promotes high-quality artists in their respective fields and builds community in Berks County and beyond,” Landis said.

HISTORIC FACTORY

The building originally was home to Thomas A. Willson Co., founded in 1871 by Gile J. Willson and his son Thomas A. Willson. It was the first factory in the world to manufacture optical glass for lenses and reading glasses.

The company became known for its innovative strides in addressing the occupational hazards faced by factory workers and is credited with launching the safety protection industry.

After changing owners and names through the years, in 1989 Dalloz bought the company, and in 1997 changed its name to Dalloz Safety. The business closed in May 2002.

With support from the community and state government, a yearlong renovation transformed the abandoned goggle factory into GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, opening to the public in September 2005.

TEACHING STUDIOS, THEATER

The arts center today features six large teaching studios in ceramic, hot and warm glass, jewelry, photography and wood; 35 juried artists’ studios and exhibition galleries. The building also houses the offices of more than a dozen arts and culture organizations.

The complex also includes a 131-seat theater, which presents art-house films daily, a café and store that retails the work of more than 200 artists from around the nation. GoggleWorks also rents out space for events, including for business meetings, conferences and weddings.

In 2006, GoggleWorks received a 2006 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award which acknowledged the integrity of the extensive renovation.

“I hope to expand on the incredible vision of the GoggleWorks’ founders and board by inspiring the capable staff to develop an international reputation, diverse funding sources and new audiences,” Landis said.

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Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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