Stephen Powell was born in Birmingham, Alabama. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Painting and Ceramics at Centre College, Powell went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at Louisiana State University. It was while at LSU, between 1980 and 1983, that Powell had his first experience in glass blowing. Glass has been a full time obsession for him since then, whether he is teaching it or producing his own work.
Powell exhibits his work nationally and internationally. He has participated in workshops, demonstrations and lectures all over the US, as well as in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. He has demonstrated at several Glass Art Society conferences, and at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The highlight of his travels was an exhibition of his work at “Venezia Aperto Vetro” in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, Italy, where he was one of only eight American artists invited.
Powell’s greatest impact has been in the Art Department at Centre College in Danville, KY. Powell was hired by Centre College in 1983 to teach ceramics and sculpture. By 1985, thanks in part to Corning Glass in Harrodsburg, Philips Lighting in Danville, and Corhart in Louisville, he had built a glass studio and founded Centre’s glass program, which has attracted prospective students from around the country. In 1997, again thanks to Corning Glass, Philips Lighting, Corhart, and General Electric in Somerset, KY, Powell designed and completed a new, state-of-the-art glass studio, which Centre opened as part of their new Visual Arts Center in January 1998. The new art facility has also been host to such visiting artists as Marvin Lipofsky, Lino Tagliapietra, Richard Jolley, Richard Royal, Dante Marioni, Jim Mongrain, Nancy Callan, Katherine Gray, and Jose Chardiet.
Many graduates of the program have gone on to graduate school and have become successful glass artists; Che Rhodes, after running the glass program at Southern Illinois University for five years, now heads the new glass department at the University of Louisville. Patrick Martin runs Emporia State’s glass program in Kansas. Brook White, along with Paul Hugues and Paul Nelson run Flame Run Glass Studio in Louisville, KY. D. H. McNabb is working professionally in glass in Seattle and is currently a member of Lino Tagliapietra’s glass team.
Powell has been honored with Kentucky’s “Teacher of the Year” award in both 1999 and 2000. In 2000, Powell co-produced the video “Lino Tagliapietra: Glass Maestro.”
In 2004, he was presented with the Acorn Award by the Kentucky Council on Post-secondary Education. Also in 2004, Powell and Centre College hosted Lino Tagliapietra. Tagliapietra was awarded, along with Sandra Day O’Connor an Honorary Doctoral degree.
In 2007, Powell released his first full-length book Stephen Rolfe Powell Glassmaker. The book documents his art work from beginning to present.
In 2009, Powell installed his first major hanging glass sculpture “Time Zippy”.
Powell is currently Professor of Art Glass at Centre College in Danville Kentucky.