Dale Chihuly hasn’t been featured at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix for five long years, which for fans of the glass artist is much too long.
I count myself among them, but at least I encounter his work much more often during visits to my relatives in Tacoma, Wash. Chihuly’s home base is in Puget Sound, and his outdoor installations are all over the region.
The most recent is the Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, which is located in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle.
The Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma is a local icon, and it is right next to the Museum of Glass that has long featured his work and those of other glass artists.
During my most recent Tacoma visit, my daughter and I never got beyond the gift shop in the museum — we had lingered too long outside at the bridge and closing time was drawing nigh.
The bridge, which is a partnership between Chihuly, the Museum of Glass and the city of Tacoma, is a 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass that links the Museum to downtown Tacoma and its cultural corridor.
Here’s a synopsis of the bridge from the museum’s website:
Austin-based Arthur Andersson, architect of the nearby Washington State History Museum, designed the bridge in close collaboration with Chihuly, who directed the artistic concept. The bridge provides a means for the internationally renowned Chihuly to contribute in a very public way to his hometown.
Three distinct installations comprise the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The Seaform Pavilion is a ceiling made of 2,364 objects from Chihuly’s Seaform and Persian series. The objects are suspended in midair and make dramatic use of natural light. As visitors walk under this pavilion, they experience a seemingly underwater world of glass shapes and forms a few feet above their heads.
Marking the center of the bridge are the Crystal Towers, which rise 40 feet above the bridge deck and serve as beacons of light for the bridge and city. Illuminated from below, the forms glow at night. The 63 large crystals in each tower are made from Polyvitro, a polyurethane material developed to withstand the elements.
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. The Venetian Wall is a collection of some of the largest blown-glass works executed in the history of the medium.
I have to say that synopsis really doesn’t do the bridge justice — it is one of the most interesting public walkways I’ve ever encountered. And best of all, it is free. So the next time you are in Seattle, take a side trip to Tacoma — the Chihuly Bridge of Glass alone is worth the detour.
— Randy Wilson
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