High Glass, Glassmorous, Glassy, Glastacular … Okay, I’ll stop!

Tom and I … Amtrak … Tacoma, Washington … no kids … overnight. I must say, we found ourselves entranced with the city’s historic architecture and glass art offerings.

Before our visit, I had no idea that Tacoma was Dale Chihuly‘s birthplace — he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. (A quick aside, Dale’s site is shockingly … well, retro … and not in a good way.) I had no idea that so much of his art was on display throughout the city. I had no idea there was a Museum of Glass devoted solely to glass art, right downtown.

And, I had no idea that said museum had a fully functional Hot Shop (glassblowing studio), complete with a guide narrating the action, in which you could sit and observe. In fact, their Web site has a live video feed of the Hot Shop, and you can even ask questions of the emcee online.

To get to the Museum of Glass, we walked across The Bridge of Glass, pictured below, on the left, which is an impressive connector between the beautifully restored, historic Union Station, and the very modern, cone-shaped museum.

There are a multitude of pieces by Chihuly on the overpass, a very impressive selection. The most visually imposing are the towering blue glass sculptures, called the Crystal Towers, that adorn the bridge, shown in two photos below. The towers were rather impressive in the sunlight, not so his remaining masterpieces on the walkway.

Enclosed in frames along one edge of the bridge is an arrangement called the Venetian Wall, featuring some of the largest hand blown works ever created. This exhibit was very poorly lit when we were there, which happened to be on a very bright, sunny day. The natural daylighting was not effective and everything looked washed out and sadly unspectacular. The Seaform Pavilion displays marine-inspired forms in an overhead installation, and again, they were very dull and muted. Both of these displays have artificial lighting for cloudy days and evening viewing. I would recommend the latter to truly enjoy the experience. (I had to play around with contrast on these pictures from the Seaform Pavilion to make them pop.)

Our first reaction to the displays: “They need to call Steve Wynn to jazz this up a bit — he knows how to light a Chihuly!!”

After passing over the bridge, it was off to the museum for us.

Two of the galleries were closed because they were installing new exhibits, so we entered with a discount and went to the Hot Shop, which was really riveting. We learned a ton while watching a team of blowers and an artist crafting pieces that were inspired by the cosmos.

We also toured the one open gallery, which contained, amongst other things, a neat program where they take fanciful children’s drawings and realize them in glass. The final exhibit includes a combined presentation of the child’s original picture and the derivative glass piece. Very entertaining, and technically, quite difficult for the artisans.

All in all, definitely worth a visit. We came away with a real respect for, and an abiding interest in, glass art.

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