Washington


Tacoma’s Museum District

Three in One Triangle

Museum of Glass The east end of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass deposits us on the rooftop plaza of the Museum of Glass. Several temporary outdoor exhibits join the permanent Water Forest by Howard Ben Tré along the terraces and reflecting pools. On clear days – yes, you can experience a bright, blue sunny day in Tacoma – Mt. Rainier rises over the city in glaciated splendor.

Clad in stainless steel, a distinctive 90-foot tilted cone symbolizes the city’s transformation from industrial to cultural center. Architects took inspiration from the wood burners found at sawmills when the regional economy prospered from lumbering. A grand staircase wraps down the cone to the museum entrance.

The cone houses the core of the museum’s commitment to glass – The Hot Shop Amphitheater. Tiered seating accommodates 200 visitors while teams of artists experiment, demonstrate and create with molten glass in this arena for art. Cameras transmit live video to large screens providing up-close viewing of the process while a narrator explains terminology, materials and techniques, and answers questions from the entranced audiencHot Shop Audiencee. Not in Tacoma? Watch the Hot Shop in operation live via web streaming.

When entering the working studio we note the heat and roar of gas furnaces where batch glass is melted to temperatures over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A team member gathers molten glass on the end of a blowpipe. With the first breath of air we see the magical beginnings of an art form dating from the time of Christ. As the objects are shaped and blown they require reheating in the glory hole to keep the piece malleable. Other team members prepare colors and additional molten materials. The artist keeps the pipe in perpetual Artist in Hot Shopturns using and resisting the powers of gravity and centrifugal force.

The narrator tells us that the artists we’re seeing come from Rhode Island, the Midwest and California, each with 8-10 years of experience. Some observers stay for 15 minutes while others spend hours watching the intricate choreography and teamwork as a fine glass sculpture evolves. Differing perspectives and viewing angles intrigue as we circle the Hot Shop on the elevated walkway – stopping often to observe the action below.

The museum dedicates exhibition space to contemporary art in all medias. In the Education Studio guest artists lead visitors in interactive, experience-based learning activities. Daily docent-led tours focus on either the current gallery exhibit or the architectural structure and outdoor installations.

We pause our museum tour for a restful lunch in Gallucci’s Glass Café overlooking the water. Before leaving we make sure to browse the Museum Store where we find glass art made in the Hot Shop as well as pieces from an array of contemporary artists, a broad selection of books, jewelry and gift items.

Tacoma Union Station The west end of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass leads to additional cultural attractions and city center. The Washington State History Museum relates man’s encounters and influences through multi-media presentations. No dusty shelves of relics here. From early Native Americans and sea explorers to the aviation industry the story of the Pacific Northwest unfolds. We return twice during our stay to this innovative facility to tour the quality permanent and temporary exhibits.

The Tacoma Art Museum completes the museum triangle. Collections include European Impressionism, Japanese woodblock prints, American graphic art and Northwest Art. Not surprisingly, the museum holds a large public collection of Chihuly Glass representing major series of his works from 1977 to present.

Union Station Window An added bonus to the museum triangle is the former Union Station now serving as a Federal Courthouse. The restored Romanesque building features a six-story rotunda – a perfect gallery for Chihuly artwork. A 1,000-piece chandelier hangs under the central dome and a massive arched window is adorned with 27 monumental sized glass creations Chihuly named the Monarch Window.

I used to considered Tacoma the half-sister to Seattle but after spending several days and exploring the museum triangle we found her a worthy sibling rival.

When You Go: The Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau is a helpful resource in planning your Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County visit.

Related Blog – Bridging Tacoma in Glass

Bridging Tacoma in Glass

Ceiling Panel DayA - Blog Light streams through thousands of handcrafted glass objects resembling purple sea urchins, red reeds, and ruffled clamshells. We stand beneath a 50-foot ceiling along a portion of the pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass which spans Interstate 705 in Tacoma, Washington. The longer we observe the art forms inspired by the sea the more details surface to our appreciative eyes.

The unique bridge and public art showcase features the creations of world-renown glass artist Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native son. More than 200 museums hold collections of Chihuly pieces. Here, three distinctive installations reflect the creative leaps Chihuly hasBridge at DuskA - Blog introduced to glass art and sculpture.

Dedicated in July, 2002, the 500-foot-long bridge links downtown Tacoma with the Thea Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. Below the structure, railroad tracks and the interstate spur run into the city.

Those walking across the span encounter the glass ceiling of the Seaform Pavilion, two ice blue CryCeiling Panel at NightA - Blogstal Towers jutting skyward, and the Venetian Wall displaying 109 Chihuly sculptures. With traffic zipping underfoot visitors pause to view and photograph.  Someone points to a buttery yellow form almost three-feet in diameter and comments on the undulating rim. Soon, complete strangers join in a show-and-tell of favorite colors, shapes and overlays.

Ceiling at NightA - Blog

                                                                                                                                                            

          Ardent admirers assume a prone position on the walkway, gazing upward. The flow of glass and color seems to pulsate – reminiscent of a gentle tide on a sandy beach. A slightly different angle produces an iridescence similar to an abalone’s inner shell. The ceiling incorporates 2,364 individual glass pieces.

Each of the glacial blue Crystal Towers standing 40 feet above the bridge deck are made of 63 large hollow Polyvitro crystals, not glass. Chihuly comments, “As with glass, it is really light that makes the Polyvitro crystals come alive."

The 80-foot long Venetian Wall showcases a colorful array of creations from three Chihuly series;

  • Venetians – inspired by Venetian Art Deco glass 
  • Ikebana – in the spirit of traditional Japanese floral arrangements
  • Putti – popular 16th & 17th century European art figures representing Cupid – the Roman god of love. Chihuly places his unique Putti atop classical vases.

Wall of Works DayA - Blog Wall of Works NightA - Blog

As fascinating as the pieces are in natural daylight they become ever more dramatic under fiber-optic illumination at night. After dark illuminated colors intensify in contrast to night skies and pieces glow from reflecting headlights. Day or night strolling the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is the most artful way you’ve crossed an Interstate highway.

When You Go: The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is open 24 hours a day. A spectacular free display of original art in public places.

Chihuly Bridge of Glass - Tacoma, Washington
Chihuly Bridge of Glass – Tacoma, Washington

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Related Post – Tacoma’s Museum District

Cherished Carousel Begins a 2nd Century

Carousel 1 Spokane’s beautifully preserved Looff Carousel begins a second century of delighting children and adults. Built in 1909 and considered to be the last operating carousel created by Charles Looff  the hand-carved wooden carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This Spokane treasure is frequently listed as one of the top five carousels in the country and has one of the highest number of riders each year.Carousel - Jaz

Aligned three abreast, 54 horses prance around the wooden platform. All are jumpers, carved in a running position, and move up and down with the rotation of the carousel. This is the only one made by Looff on which all of the horses are jumpers. A giraffe, one tiger and two dragon chariots complete the carousel.

Spokane’s Looff debuted July 1909 in Natatorium Park, operating there until 1967 when the park closed. It was brought out of storage after Spokane’s Expo ‘74 and reassembled in the world’s fair Bavarian Garden building.

Caousel Building

We don’t consider a trip to Spokane complete without a few turns on the historic carousel in Riverfront Park. On sunny summer days, during chilly spring rains or snowy Christmas holidays there’s something magically and rejuvenating about climbing atop a bejeweled jumper, the ringing of the starting bell and music from the band organ. We gallop along at a brisk 7-mph pace with the outside riders Carousel  - Jaz and Nancy stretching out with each rotation in hopes of grabbing the golden ring. Those who succeed receive a free ride. Awaiting our turn we careful scrutinize the passing array of horses. Do we want to mount a red sorrel, dapple gray or strawberry pinto? Each horse is individually painted and adorned in colorful “trappings”, tails are made from real horse hair and color coordinated.

More than a quarter of a million riders experience the Spokane Looff carousel each year. My first ride on this treasure was in 1983; I hope to never loss my enthusiasm for a spin.

Carousel Top Sculpture The Art of the Carousel

In celebration of the Looff carousel anniversary an exhibition of artifacts and artwork is showcased at the Chase Gallery in Spokane’s City Hall. The Art of the Carousel, on display until February 28, 2010, features antique horses and figures, horses under construction, original artworks and historical details. Chase Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5 pm.

To the Sea, To the Sea

“Ocian in view! O! the joy.” Wrote Capt. William Clark in his journal on November 7, 1805. I know that joy today as we arrive in Cannon Beach after several years absence.

  • We drive along the Washington side of the Columbia River from Longview to Cathlamet.
  • Columbia River from Ferry A spur of the moment decision finds us waiting on the Puget Island Ferry, the last ferry operating on the Lower Columbia. The ferry departs Puget Island on the Washington side of the river on the hour. Stopping to absorb the surroundings is a nice alternative to rushing down the highway.
  • We listen to local conversation as the ferry operators chat with the regulars and tease the children. We overhear the lady in the pickup next to us on her cell phone; she’s asking if someone was in Denver when they had the 4” of rain and hail. Our eyebrows shoot up, knowing we need to check this out.
  • Nine cars and trucks make the 11am crossing. Ten minutes and $3 brings us to Westport, Oregon.Fort Clatsop
  • The sun shines on Astoria, Oregon today. On previous visits, under grey, wet skies I’ve always thought of Astoria as rather forlorn. The town seems much cheerier under bright blue skies.
  • Lunch at the Gunderson’s Cannery Cafe on the dock of the Sixth Street viewing tower. I order crab cakes, Bob salmon cakes and we share. To my amazement I preferred the salmon.
  • Lewis and Clark National Park encompasses seven national historic sites plus state parks in Oregon and Washington, all significantly tied to the Lewis and Clark  Corps of Discovery. The corps spent the winter of 1805-06 at the quickly erected Fort Clatsop. It was a forlorn 106-day stay with rain all but 12 days, illness and scant supplies.
  • We browse museum displays, watch an orientation movie, visit the replica fort and walk trails through the thick forests. Unfortunately the ranger programs don’t start  until next week.
  • Cannon Beach Sunset Arriving in Cannon Beach we check into our oceanfront accommodations at Tolovana Inn.
  • Happily nested, we decide to eat on the property at Mo’s. Famous for their clam chowder, Mo’s Seafood Restaurants dot the Oregon coast.
  • What better way to end the day than a sunset beach walk?

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