Ben Salzmann, president and CEO of Acuity, a large insurance company based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was vacationing with his wife in a small Wisconsin town when their eyes were drawn to a stunning assemblage of glass icicles in a gallery window. At first glance, the Salzmanns thought it might be a Chihuly, but on closer inspection they discovered it was a Kuster—a name not yet known to them.
As it happened, Salzmann was looking to commission an artist to create a permanent installation in the galleria of Acuity’s new, 450,000-square-foot headquarters. After meeting with Kuster, Salzmann gave him the job and never looked back.
“I met him and just said, ‘This is someone I can count on,’” Salzmann recalls. “We live in a world of risk, but the thing I’ve learned is that when you see a human being you trust, you go with it. He’s an outstanding artist, without the depression and the despair. He’s not a Van Gogh cutting off his ear. He brings joy.”
Kuster created more than 14,000 handblown glass tendrils and assembled them into seven spherical chandeliers, each 12 to 15 feet in diameter. The painstaking process, as well as the striking results, was recorded in a PBS documentary, “The Seven Sisters, A Creation in Glass”, which aired in 2005. Kuster earned a fee of $1 million for The Seven Sisters, as the project came to be known. Hanging in Acuity’s glass-enclosed galleria with its 50- and 100-foot ceilings, the illuminated globes are visible from a nearby highway. Salzmann says people often pull over and get out of their cars just to look at Kuster’s work.