The Tacoma/Seattle Art Glass Scene in One Day

Joyce and I love art glass—blown glass in every conceivable shape and color. Last week’s trip to St. Petersburg, Florida’s Chihuly Collection merely served to wet our appetite. We were, after all, about to head off to Seattle—the virtual birthplace of American glass art and home of “the glass master” himself, Dale Chihuly.

We began our periodic pilgrimage at the logical place—Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. While the displays from the museum’s permanent collection were certainly beautiful, most of the display space was taken over by two special exhibits. The two-artist, long-distance collaboration (Sweden and Minnesota) between Ingalena Klenell and Beth Lipman, resulted in the three-part exhibit titled Glimmering Gone. One perception-bending segment consisted of transparent forms of common objects (wine glasses, bottles and so forth) that were sliced in totally unexpected ways. another segment contained similarly sliced white glass objects that were embedded in a white wall.

The pièce de résistance and primary part of the exhibit, however, was simultaneously beautiful and haunting—a ceiling-hung landscape of hundreds of precisely cut and molded transparent and etched glass that, when viewed from different perspectives, could be seen as a series of symmetrical planes or an incredible winter landscape.

The other special exhibits consisted of Richard Craig Meitner’s thought-provoking, abstract glass art constructions and a series of wonderful, imaginative children’s designs in which children drew colored concepts on paper (monsters, people, buildings or anything else their imaginations can conjure up) and then work with professional glass artists who cast these concepts in glass.

No visit to the Museum, however, would be complete without two other stops:

  • The Hot Shop, in which noted glass artists create their own pieces in front of a live audience (with a narrator explain the steps to the audience). We were lucky enough to watch master glass artist Lino Tagliapietra and his team create one of his incredible vases—one very similar to those we later saw in Travers Gallery a single artist gallery exhibition of Lino’s art in which the pieces STARTED at $50,000.
  • The Chihuly Bridge of Glass, which consists of a wall display of more than 50 large pieces and one of Chihuly’s beautiful ceiling installations.

The bridge, conveniently, led us to Tacoma’s nicely renovated Union Station, with its three big Chihuly displays, and, next door, to the Tacoma Art Museum. Although our trip, unfortunately, brought us to Tacoma on a day the museum was closed, it has its own large, permanent Chihuly collection and a special exhibition, Dale Chihuly’s Northwest.

After a pleasant lunch (grilled salmon and ahi tuna steak sandwich) at Pacific Grill, we made a couple other fast glass stops on Tacoma’s glass art trail (The Swiss Pub and Tacoma Glass Blowing) and the also closed Travers and Vetri Galleries, we headed to Seattle to continue our explorations.

This included stops at the Canliss, Vetri and Traver glass galleries. Travers, as mentioned, had a wonderful, large exhibit of Lino Tagliapietra glass and Vitri a selection of less expensive glass (i.e., typically less than $10,000)  from a number of artists, including Chihuly. But while Seattle certainly has galleries, it has been particularly blessed with a number of donations and discounted sales of public art from Chihuly. These include installations at Benroya Hall, City Center, the Washington Convention Center and the particularly nice two-part installation at the Sheraton Seattle.Chihuly glass

Chihuly GlassAlthough we were able to squeeze in a brief walk-through of the pretty, new Olympic Sculpture Park, we did not have time to revisit either the Seattle Art Museum or its Asian branch in Volunteer Park on this trip.

We, after all, were on a mission. The primary objective of this trip was to identify a couple of neighborhoods in which we would like to live for a few months after we sell our house (currently planned for 2013) and begin our next two-to-three year travel odyssey. A combination of long walking tours, a wonderful friend-guided driving tour and a conversation with a helpful real estate agent helped us to tentatively narrow our search to lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill.

We also had to explore some of the city’s most interesting new restaurants, which I discuss in my new Food and Wine blog.

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