15 years is a long time on the Internet.
From the beginning, Glasstire was a nonprofit, web-only magazine covering visual art statewide throughout Texas. None of that has changed. What has changed, quite a bit, is the website itself. What follows are images of all the homepages we’ve had since the site launched in January 2001.
Our founder Rainey Knudson built the original site, and the Houston artist and writer Bill Davenport became our first regular writer, contributing a column he called “Tire Iron,” every week for the first year and a half.
At the time, most art galleries didn’t even have websites (or sometimes even emails). People would mail us photographic slides or postcards, which we would scan to get digital images of their shows. Most cell phones could only make phone calls. Most Internet connections were dial-up. Social media and streaming video were years away.
Later in 2001 we abandoned the black background, going for a “cleaner” look with some color. The new site was our first to include a map of Texas, which is still a feature of the homepage. We added authors Christopher French, Jeff Dalton and Bret McCabe during the year.
On 9/11, like everybody else in the country, we wanted to do something to help. Like everyone else away from the attacked areas, there was little we could do except watch the horror unfold, and encourage people to donate blood.
In 2002 we launched our first message boards. These forerunners of what we now know as comment systems were a basic chat forum organized by topic. They quickly became one of the most-visited areas of the site. “Trolling” hadn’t yet entered the lexicon, but anyone who remembers the message boards remembers some wild-and-woolly chat!
By 2003 it was clear we needed better design and technology. The artist Paul Kremer built our first professional site with his design company Speared Peanut. We still use his Texas map today. This was our first site to use a database (Microsoft Access, with ASP code, for the tech nerds out there). It was also the first to include advertising from our sponsors. New writers included Anjali Gupta, Chris Ballou, and John Devine. Rachel Cook (now the Curator of Diverseworks) joined Glasstire as our first Editor.
By 2007, it was time to move to a newer database system (from Access to SQL). The artist Anthony Shumate designed a site that kept the color scheme from the old site but incorporated then-current trends like a left-hand navigation column and polls. The image behind our masthead changed whenever a new article appeared. This was the first design to feature events on the homepage. This was also the first (and only) site that allowed users to log into the site to post to the message boards. Writers at the time included Titus O’Brien, Wendy Atwell, Michelle Gonzalez Valdez, Stefanie Ball-Piwetz and Garland Fielder. Houston art writer Kelly Klaasmeyer joined the team as our second Editor. Christina Rees, our current Senior Texas Editor, and Michael Bise, who still contributes regularly to the site, both first wrote for us in 2008.
Our 10th anniversary in 2011 started out as an annus horribilis for Glasstire—our site experienced a security breach (the attack originated from Russia, actually) and we went down for three weeks that March. Fortunately we were already in the process of developing a new site that used a more secure content management system (CMS). The new design, again by Shumate and our programmer Ryan Fitzer, featured a minimal color scheme and introduced comments on articles for the first time. This was also the last time we migrated our database (which Rainey Knudson had taken to calling our “Frankenbase”)—we hope we don’t have to do that again. Regular writers included Beth Secor, Lucia Simek, Colette Copeland and Bill Davenport, who returned to the site to become the Editor in 2013.
Our current site launched last year, again responding to new technologies, specifically smart phones. It’s our first “responsive site” (i.e. it resizes automatically no matter what size screen somebody is reading it on). The site also made it easier for the first time to view older content. We include the whole beast here in its full-length glory, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that it won’t look this way forever.
We thank all the writers who have contributed to Glasstire over the years—almost 400 of them! We also thank the web developers who have helped us, always with good humor, always on our small nonprofit budget. We know it wasn’t easy. Lastly, we thank YOU for reading Glasstire, and we hope new and longtime readers enjoyed the trip down memory lane. If you enjoyed it, please consider donating to our 15th anniversary fund!