Tacoma Washington’s Art Scene

Tacoma’s Glass Art Scene

Tacoma Washington used to be known for its major railroad terminal and its huge, smelly copper smelter. It has always lived in Seattle Washington’s shadow. It has, however, largely cleaned up its act and is working to reinvent itself as an art town. Much of this art rests on the fame and largess of glass artist Dale Chihuly and car lover Harold LeMay, two of Tacoma’s native sons. The city is now home to the Tacoma Museum of Glass, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Union Station with its Monarch Window and several Chihuly glass installations, and the Tacoma Art Museum, which also includes several donated Chihuly pieces.

LeMay, meanwhile, created LeMay-America’s Car Museum and the LeMay Collections at Marymount. And this is not to forget the Washington State History Museum or the city’s numerous theaters and public art pieces.

Tacoma Museum of Glass

We primarily focused our day in the city on glass.

The Tacoma Museum of Glass consists of several different sections, all of which are interesting. These include:

  • An outside exhibit of multiple, abstract glass pieces in a pond, that evokes the eerily shaped icebergs that we recently saw near Alaskan glaciers;


  • The Hot Shop, a large, beautifully designed glassblowing facility and viewing area in which one can watch professionals create glass pieces.

Hot Shop

  • The Main Gallery hosts a number of temporary and permanent exhibits. On our trip this time, we saw a major exhibit that highlighted the career of Rene’ Lalique, who helped pioneer Art Deco and went on to develop a major glass business based on custom projects (including designing automotive symbols and particularly in creating high-volume glass art, especially vases).

Rene Lalique (1)Rene Lalique - a legacy in glassRene Lalique (2)Rene Lalique (3)

Another exhibit provided an overview of several of Dale Chihuly’s series’ including Venetians, baskets, macchia, chandeliers, Ikebana, and Seaforms.

Lapis Blue Ikebaina Gourd with Putti StemChihuly Black Basket Set with Cobalt LipsChihuly Cadminum Orange Macchia Set

A few smaller exhibits also had some fascinating pieces including Tim Tate’s mirrored representation of DaVinci’s man and Eric Franklin’s abstract representation of a spine filled with ionized gas that glows when approached with a hand.

Tim Tate - We Rose UpEric Franklin - Trunk

  • The Artist Alley, with a fun representation of designs from the imaginations of children;

Kids Design (1)Kids Design (2)

  • The Art of Being exhibit had with artist’s representations of human feelings, memories, and imagination.


The museum also has a theater for presentations and films and a store that offers lower-priced items for sale.

Chihuly Bridge of Glass

The Glass Museum is connected to downtown via a footbridge that contains three Chihuly installations.

  • The ceiling of the Seaform Pavillion houses more than 2,300 of the artist’s glass pieces.

glass ceiling (3)glass ceiling (5)glass ceiling (6)

  • At the bridge’s center are two of the artist’s matching, 40-foot, blue Crystal Towers.

Outside installation

The other half of the bridge is home to his 100+-piece Venetian Wall.

glass bridge (2)

But Wait There’s More

And don’t forget to visit the Union Station a beaux-art building that has several Chihuly installations in its lovely atrium. These include a chandelier, a main window displaying a number of orange seaforms; a wall displaying a number of the artist’s concept drawings, and a large circle with several of his twisted, rope-like forms with large bulbs, like the buoyancy tubes of seaweed.

Union Station (4)Union Station (2)Union Station (1)

For more on Tacoma and glass, see our previous blog:

The Tacoma/Seattle Art Glass Scene

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