Magical Gardens: Chihuly Garden and Glass

I have always had a special place in my heart for glass. I grew up in Corning—America’s Crystal City—and worked at The Corning Museum of Glass through high school and college (and coincidentally am now working there again!) Glass is a truly magical material. There’s so much beauty in its fragility. So much technique goes into the creation of every piece, yet so much happenstance went into the creation of glass itself. If you’ve ever seen someone blowing glass, you know how easy they make it look. If you’ve ever manipulated glass yourself, you know there’s nothing farther from the truth. That’s why I have a keen appreciation for glass, and am always thrilled to see a new exhibit.

Dale Chihuly is one of the greatest master glassblowers alive today. Even people outside the glass world have heard of him—or at least seen his work in the ceiling of Vegas’ Bellagio or on cruise ships. His work is easily identifiable; so whimsical in nature.

Kyle and I spent a few days in Seattle following our Alaskan cruise on our honeymoon, and I was beyond delighted to discover the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit situated conveniently beneath the Space Needle.

The Space Needle has been an integral part of Seattle’s skyline since the city played host to the World’s Fair in 1962. The structure is managed today by the Wright family, children of Howard S. Wright II who constructed it. Seattle Center needed to be reinvigorated, and the Wright family asked Northwest native Dale Chihuly to exhibit a collection of his work. Chihuly leapt at the opportunity, as he had always been a fan of the Space Needle. The exhibit opened in mid-2012, and consists of an exhibition hall, a garden installation, and a glasshouse.

We began our visit with a lunch stop at Collections Café, representing Chihuly’s other passion—amassing great collections of everything from accordions to old cameras.

We spent a great deal of time in the exhibition space. I was completely blown away by the bright colors and the shear enormity of some of the sculptures. I’d seen Chihuly’s work before, but never anything of that magnitude. One room was entirely filled with glass—it was like being in a mystical garden. Everywhere you looked, you could see small details you hadn’t noticed before. Seriously, you could spend all day in there and still be fascinated.

The adjacent room, however, was stark white—and completely empty. But the ceiling was filled with colorful objects, displacing the light so beautifully on the walls. That’s the thing I love about glass. It’s such a friend to light. Most museums are relatively dark—the light is very controlled so as not to harm the artwork. But glass and light share a kinship where one simply enhances the other. Seeing the way the colors danced on the walls was truly incredible—and it made you appreciate Chihuly’s genius even more.

Then it was on to the greenhouse, only this greenhouse was like none I’d ever seen. I’d heard about Chihuly’s glass gardens, but this—this was something truly incredible. So many fragile objects open to the elements, and all located beneath such an iconic structure in this great city. It was unbelievable to stare up through the glass sculpture on the ceiling of the greenhouse and see the Space Needle towering above us.

If you have any appreciation for glass—or even if you don’t—I highly recommend a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass. I promise, you’ll never look at glass the same way again.

Here are some other amazing spaces in the exhibit:

What to know if you go

General admission: $21 for adults; Combo ticket with Space Needle: $39

Places

Chihuly Garden and Glass

305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206)753-4940

Chihuly Garden and Glass

305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206)753-4940
http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com

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