“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced.” Dale Chihuly
In 1996 I watched a documentary on PBS called “Chihuly Over Venice.” I was mesmerized by his work in one of the cities that I longed to visit.
Eventually, I did visit Venice and was captivated by it’s beauty. As I wandered through the narrow passageways and piazzas, I imagined Chihuly’s glass masterpieces suspended over the canals. I longed to see his work in person.
My visit to Seattle and Tacoma became all about the dazzling Chihuly glass
I finally had the opportunity when I visited Seattle, and the first item on my list of places to visit would be Chihuly Garden and Glass. What I didn’t know was Chihuly has glass installations all over the area, and before I set foot in the museum I would be treated to beautiful glass sculptures in his hometown of Tacoma.
Chihuly Glass in Tacoma
In Tacoma you can see Dale Chihuly’s work in several spots in the city, but a great place to start is at the Museum of Glass. The Museum of Glass was founded by Chihuly and opened in July of 2002. The Museum of Glass features exhibits, classes, live glass making and a Chihuly Walking Tour. The docent-led tour guides participants are around downtown Tacoma, stopping at Dale Chihuly’s public art installations throughout the walk.
I did see a couple of his installations in Tacoma, and they are not to be missed. My first stop was at the Union Station Federal Courthouse, which features the “Monarch Window,” a 22 by 40-foot work featuring 25 impressions of monarch butterflies. In addition to the Window, there are other pieces that are also spectacular – as you’ll see in my photos. I was only able to shoot three of the five installations because this is a working Courthouse for official business only. But, if you can sneak a peek, you will not be disappointed as the the installations and the architecture of the Union Station Federal Courthouse are fantastic.
A few steps from the courthouse is the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot pedestrian covered footbridge. It was opened in 2002 as a gift to the city of Tacoma. The pedestrian overpass links downtown Tacoma to The Museum of Glass. The bridge is comprised of three installations: Furthest from the Museum is the Seaform Pavilion, a ceiling made of 2,364 objects from Chihuly’s Seaform and Persian series. A 50 by 20-foot plate-glass ceiling, the forms are suspended in midair and make dramatic use of natural light. I was immersed into a world of glass shapes and forms as I walked under the pavilion. I looked up and I was enveloped in colorful light which made me feel like I was part of the installation.
At the center of the bridge are the Crystal Towers, which rise 40 feet above the bridge deck, and serve as beacons for the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and the city of Tacoma. Each tower has 63 large crystals that are made from polyurethane material developed to withstand the elements. They remind me of giant crystals of ice glistening in the sun. At night, they are illuminated and serve as a beacon of light for the city of Tacoma.
Closest to the Museum is the Venetian Wall, an 80-foot installation displaying 109 sculptures from three of Chihuly’s series: Venetians, Ikebana, and Putti. As I walked passed these sculptures I had to keep reminding myself that I was outside, on an overpass, not in a museum. It was special being able to enjoy these pieces freely like this. It was such a gift.
Chihuly Garden and Glass, a dream realized
From the moment I was first introduced to the artistry of Dale Chihuly, I longed to see his work in the flesh. A trip to Seattle made this dream a reality.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass sits strategically below the iconic Space Needle at Seattle Center. I learned how important this location was as I toured the museum and entered the garden.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is comprised of eight galleries, with the centerpiece being the Glasshouse, an impressive 40-foot tall glass Conservatory with one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures. The 100-foot long orange, red, amber, and yellow glass sculpture reflects the natural light streaming into the Conservatory. The Space Needle can be seen towering in between the glass flora as it becomes part of the whole Glasshouse experience.
The Garden is just that, a garden like any other. The Garden features paths lined with trees, plants, and flowers. Crimson camellias, scarlet day lilies, dogwoods, fuchsias are the setting for the Crystal and Icicle Towers. One of my favorites is the installation of Reeds on Logs. At the center of this lush landscape, on a bed of black mondo grass, is the Sun, an explosion of yellow and orange. Like nature, the glass is fragile, beautiful, and bursting with color. Along the paths among the rocks and plants are glass orbs. Each one is strategically placed so you can see the reflection of the Space Needle and reflections of the people meandering through the garden. It truly is a garden of reflection and majestic beauty.
The video below is a collection of photographs I took. They don’t even begin to show how impressive the Chihuly Garden and Glass is. To appreciate it’s magic, you have to experience it in person. Hopefully, this video will inspire you to add the Garden and Glass on your bucket list.