Despite becoming an international phenomenon with sculptures around the world (in over 200 museums to be exact), the most extensive collection of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly’s works can be seen right where he was born in Tacoma, Washington. Although his studio and current home resides in Seattle, venture just 35 minutes south to Tacoma you’ll find his storage and shipping facility, which play a vital role in his art empire. Combined, the Seattle-Tacoma region has more glassblowers than Murano, Italy, once considered to be the world capital of the impressive art form during the Renaissance period.
Here’s your self-guided tour of Tacoma glass works:
Your Welcome Wagon – the Bridge of Glass
A 500-foot pedestrian bridge and outdoor glass display which connects the Washington State History Museum, Museum of Glass and historic Union Station, the bridge was designed and conceptualized as a collaboration between Chihuly and Austin-based architect Arthur Andersson. The bridge has three distinct sections, the Seaform Pavilion with pieces dramatically suspended from the ceiling, the Crystal Towers, illuminated from below to serve as a beacon of light for the city, and the Venetian Wall, exuberant art deco statues welcoming you to artsy Tacoma.
The Mack Daddy – the Tacoma Museum of Glass
Inspired by Chihuly’s influence, the Museum of Glass was founded to celebrate a number of glassmaking artists from the 20th and 21st century in rotating and permanent collections. A humongous 75,000-square-foot space dedicated to the glass movement, you’ll also find live glassmaking in the world’s largest hot shop amphitheater where an artist is always working on the next creation.
Fluent Steps – Whispering Waters
A beautiful outdoor piece, Fluent Steps spans the length of the Glass Museum’s Main Plaza reflecting pool. Four small islands of glass express the different emotions of water: Cascades, Echo, Crystal Skin, and Wisps, and was conceptualized by Martin Blank, a colleague of Chihuly’s at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Water Forest – Walk Amongst Giants
Created by artist Howard Ben Tre, the Water Forest was commissioned by the city of Tacoma as part of the Museum of Glass’s Main Plaza. Known for its dominating cylindrical water tubes evocative of the nearby tidal waves at the Thea Foss Waterway, the water provides an interactive element to marvel at.
Create Your Own Masterpiece - Area 253 or Tacoma Glassblowing Studio
Described as the “extreme sport of the art world,” Area 253 was the first Tacoma-based public glassblowing studio to offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes lasting anywhere from a day to a month. For a unique addition to your Washington weekend, Tacoma Glassblowing also offers Saturday and Sunday seminars where you can learn to make one of thirteen shapes such as a paperweight, float, ornaments, votive, pumpkin, open bowl, vase, clam shell, or wall plate.