Since moving to the Pacific Northwest and living near Tacoma, Washington, I have grown to love art glass and especially the works of Dale Chihuly. His brightly colored artwork, especially the outdoor pieces, really stand out in the gray and rainy weather we have here. Chihuly grew up in Tacoma, and his artwork illuminates many of the city’s public spaces. He creates immersive experiences that use color, light, unique shapes and lots of space. Many of his pieces that you can see in Tacoma are very site specific and designed for a particular space. There are several of his works that you can view for free.
The locations mentioned below are all within walking distance of each other. Very accessible but, to get to Hotel Murano you will have to climb a big hill or you can drive. Parking is available on the street or below the Tacoma Art Museum. I find this to be the perfect place to start and the parking is convenient.
Pro tip: Download the free STQRY app for Apple and Android to follow the Chihuly Glass Walking Tour. The audio tour gives you a better insight into the influences of his works and the techniques he used, often in his own words. It covers the Tacoma Art Museum, the Glass Museum, and many other places in the area.
I received press tickets for museums and other places that are free and open to the public.
1. The Tacoma Art Museum
The Tacoma Art Museum Chihuly gallery gives a good overview of his career. Chihuly recognized the importance of his hometown as a source of inspiration and support throughout his career and he has generously donated his works to the museum over the years starting in 1987. His longtime friend and patron Anne Gould Hauberg recognized her talent early on. and became a collector. In 2013, she made a generous donation of Chihuly’s previous work to the museum. The collection in this gallery represents different phases of his career, including baskets, blankets, cylinders, marine forms, macchia, Persians, Ikebana, Putti, and Niijima floats.
In 2006 Chihuly installed Ma Chihuly’s tanks in the central courtyard of the museum and later that year offered them in honor of his mother, Viola. The exhibit is seasonal and is removed in late fall and then relocated each spring. It contains 39 Niijima floats. He first made the tanks on the island of Niijima, Japan. Chihuly was influenced by the traditional Japanese fishing floats that often wash up on beaches in Oregon and Washington. Due to their size, they are extremely difficult to make.
2. Union Station
After the museum, head to Union Station which is only a few doors down. The imposing 1911 Revival-style building was designed by Reed & Stern, famous for New York’s Grand Central Station. At the time, it was considered the tallest building north of San Francisco. Union Station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. It was restored to its original splendor and reopened in 1992 as a federal courthouse. The spectacular historic rotunda displays incredible glass sculptures created by Dale Chihuly for the site. It’s quite an experience to walk in and see one of its iconic chandeliers dominating the center of the rotunda.
Dale Chihuly and his wife Leslie generously donated five art installations in the building in the United States. Works of art include over 20 feet long End of the day chandelier Basket drawing wall, Water reeds, Lackawanna Ikebana, and the Monarch window. As you enter the rotunda, you can see how this huge space and historic building inspired Chihuly. This also allows for much larger parts.
Pro tip: Inside the building, be sure to find the stairs at the back of the second floor where you can take a closer look at these beautiful works. You can also listen and watch Chihuly at Union Station in his own words as he and his wife Leslie describe what the building and artwork means to them.
3. Glass bridge
After Union Station, make your way to the Bridge of Glass, a 150-meter pedestrian bridge that connects Tacoma with the Foss Waterway and the Glass Museum. From the arches of the Washington State Museum of History, enter the Seaform Pavilion, which features over 2,000 glass objects on the ceiling and gives the impression of being underwater. Further on, two translucent blue crystal towers recall the glacial ice of Mount Rainier. They appear different with varying lighting conditions throughout the day. At night, they are lit from below and provide an iconic Tacoma image. Before reaching the Glass Museum, you’ll come to the Venetian Wall which contains 109 Chihuly sculptures along the wall. Just wonderful.
4. Glass museum
the Glass Museum, as the name suggests, is all about the art of glasswork. From its hot on-site boutique where you can see works of art come to life to its galleries, this museum is dedicated to sharing this beautiful art form with the community. the Spotlight on Dale Chihuly The exhibit celebrates his impact on the Studio Glass movement and its connection to his hometown of Tacoma. From Chihuly’s visit to Murano until today, he has over 50 years of experience and innovation in the art of glass. Discover nine examples of his work from the museum’s permanent collection and discover its different series. The highlight is the Gibson chandelier. Watch a sound video Chihuly over Venice project and see photos of him at the hot store.
5. Hotel Murano
Your next destination is Hotel Murano art collection, the hotel has a collection of museum-quality art glass in all of the hotel’s public spaces, including a spectacular chandelier in the lobby of Murano, Italy, famous for its glass. Look through the lobby where you will find works by Chihuly. On each floor of the hotel is a glass sculpture with information about the artist who created it. You will find photos and drawings that illustrate the process behind each piece of art.
The collection is truly magnificent and, to get the most of your experience, book a tour. Guided tours of the collection can be arranged for guests and non-guests. Tours must be booked in advance and a fee of $ 5 per person is charged. To schedule a visit, contact the hotel at [email protected]
The lobby is surprisingly comfortable for such a large open space. After a day of discovery, have a drink at the Bar960 located in the hotel lobby. It takes its name from the temperature of glass cooling furnaces. The granite-top bar has a fireplace and invites with crackling heat. It’s an elevated dining experience, not just a bar. Menus are now limited due to COVID-19, but what’s on offer is well thought out. Savor signature bites with choices such as Kobe burger, truffle mac and cheese, and fries in gravy. The fries are topped with a mushroom and zinfandel sauce, cremini mushrooms and Beecher’s cheese curds. There is a good selection of microbreweries and regional wines. Cocktails are creative and seasonal like the Chai Infused Spiced Sidecar which features house infused Chai vodka, Cointreau, freshly squeezed lemon, lime and orange juice served in a glass with a sweet rim.
Chihuly’s works in Tacoma are very special because of his connection to the city and his generous donations of art to the community and museums. You can easily see these places in a single day if you only focus on Chihuly’s works or if you spend a weekend and take your time to enjoy downtown Tacoma. The Hotel Murano is centrally located to take advantage of all that the city has to offer. Fine dining is close by with two excellent steakhouses, Stanford‘s and El Gaucho. Tacoma also has a Theater District with three theaters housing eight resident arts organizations. The wide variety of offerings include ballets, symphonies, live comedies, musicals, concert bands, pop music, and even Broadway shows. the Tacoma Link Light Rail takes you around the city center for free.
The Glass Museum and the Tacoma Art Museum both have cute gift shops with glass art for sale. The Hotel Murano also has a nice boutique. Be on the lookout for gift shops around town for glass Christmas decorations made with ash from the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helena. It is certainly a one-of-a-kind memory.
Pro tip: After visiting and observing his work in Tacoma, follow Chihuly Studio on Instagram and find some of the works you have experienced. I found it fascinating to see his article on the installation of the work at Union Station. the Dale Chihuly Official Site has information about his works and you can see the influences on the works you saw in Tacoma.
“Glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way. – Dale Chihuly
Here are more ways to experience Dale Chihuly’s art: