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

Advertisements

All That Glass – Chihuly Glass, That Is

OKCMA - Entrance Chandilier Circling the block in search of a parking space we’re already in awe of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Chihuly Glass collection. A 55-foot tall glass tower comprised of 2100 separate hand blown glass pieces dominates the atrium entrance. The Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower stands three stories tall on a black granite reflecting pool. This remarkable piece is only the beginning of one of the most comprehensive collections of Dale Chihuly glass in the world.OKCMA  - Entrance Chandilier Closeup

Whether trying to take in the entire tower or studying the multitude of individual pieces twisting and turning in one small segment we’re struck by the artistry and complexity of the structure. As Chihuly admirers we’ve seen many installations of his works in various settings around the country, this is truly an outstanding (and upstanding) original.

Before researching this trip we didn’t know that the Oklahoma City Museum of Art had such a large collection of Chihuly glass – Seaform Bowls - B one of their permanent exhibits. The first time I saw a Chihuly exhibition (in West Palm Beach) I fell in love with the Seaforms; they’re the first pieces I see at the OCMA. More subtle in color than many of the works, the form and fluid patterns in the Seaform pieces stand out – especially in the dark display cases. I can imagine these creations floating in the depths of the sea.

Chihuly is an artist always moving into new arenas, challenging the limits and gaining inspiration from a broad spectrum. The museum showcases works throughout his career and from many of his series – Ikebana, Chihuly - Macchia Forest and Reflections-n Putti, baskets, spears and Jerusalem Cylinders. The Macchia Forest pieces deserve close attention. Macchia is Italian for spotted. Not only are these giant freeform bowls spotted with intense color, the exterior and interior colors are different. A layer of white opaque glass separates the two sides. As light shines through the pieces the wall shadows fascinate as much as the glass. When I think of the beginning glob of molten glass and see the final size and complexity of construction I can’t help but wonder, “How do they do that?”

We stop to watch a continuously running video compiled from a number of filmings of the Chihuly crew in action. Watching the teamwork required gives new appreciation. It’s also fascinating to see the variety of installations he’s done around the world and how he ties them into the environment and culture.

Chihuly - Ceiling and Hall-n

Ceilings are a favorite Chihuly display technique; many admirers have stood in awe of the Bellagio ceiling in Las Vegas. It’s so large and with so many pieces I find it almost impossible to take in. At OCMA the ceiling combines hundreds of pieces from the Persian and Seaform series. I absolutely couldn’t resist the urge to lay down on the floor to look straight up into the layers of color and shapes. I could study this for hours. As one moves under the ceiling the lighting and shading makes each view unique. Again, the wall shadows and reflections are worthy of notice.

For more ceiling photos click below.

The Chihuly Waterford Crystal Chandelier in the lobby of the Museum’s Noble Theater shouldn’t be missed. In 1996 Dale Chihuly spent time at the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland. Working with the glassblowers and Chihuly - Waterford Chandelier-n etchers there they created two crystal chandeliers. One was hung over a canal as part of the Chihuly Over Venice installation. The other came to Oklahoma City for the Museum of Arts Dale Chihuly: The Inaugural Exhibition and later was purchased by the Museum. His chandeliers have never been among my favorites, some strike me as too over the top. However, the over 200 lead crystal pieces come together in an exquisite work of creative art.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and all that glass proved to be an outstanding highlight of our Oklahoma art tour.

When You Go: The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is open daily except Mondays and major holidays.

Chihuly - Boat with Orbs-n

Enjoy additional Chihuly Glass at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Cowboys, Chihuly and Curiosity

Music & Memorial

Four Days in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hearing we were headed to Oklahoma people often inquired why. They would be surprised by how positive, educational and entertaining we’ve found our experiences. We came to Oklahoma City primarily to visit a couple of museum and become acquainted with the community. Mission accomplished.End of the Trail Sculpture

Highlights:

  • Edgar Cruz Concertseeing this talented guitarist live in a casual setting was a real bonus; and, he’s as personable as he is talented. A  great evening.
  • National Cowboy & Western Heritage MuseumThe reputation of this major facility was a major priority on the trip. We expected to spend at least a half day; instead, we arrived 1/2-hour after opening at 10am and where there until closing at 5pm. Many of exhibits deserved even more time.
  • Ceiling Oklahoma City Museum of Art The large and comprehensive Dale Chihuly glass collection is a must see.
  • Oklahoma City National Memorial A sobbering tribute of the 168 innocent victims killed in the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah building. Our visit was too late in the day to also visit the museum but I’m sure it is also very moving.
  • Science Museum Oklahoma – Hundreds of interactive exhibits and activities plus IMAX theater,Science Museum - Falling Featherplanetarium, Science Live! presentations and two halls of fame. It seemed like every family in Oklahoma choose  the Science Museum for  the first day of spring break.
  • Mama Roja’s Mexican Kitchen When the wait Saturday night was 2 hours we went elsewhere; but returned Sunday to good food and margaritas and exceptional service.
  • Staybridge Suites at Quail Springs So comfortable we extended our stay – and, a great value on weekends.

Additional Activities:

  • Dining on Persimmon Hill Within the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the restaurant offers either a lunch buffet or menu items.
  • Swadley’s BBQ Recommended by the hotel desk clerk; nothing fancy but tasty and reasonably priced.
  • OK Capitol and Oil Well State Capitol Photos Stopped by the Oklahoma capitol building Sunday morning for photos of the classical structure, on-site oil well and Allan Houser sculpture.
  • Steak ‘n Shake in Edmond – A Steak ‘n Shake visit is always a step back to my youth.

If we hadn’t both been fighting colds and I was gimping around with a bad knee reminiscent of Chester on Gunsmoke we would have done even more. Perhaps next time!

Wright & Western Wonders

We made a day trip from Tulsa to Bartlesville combining a hardy dose of Frank Lloyd Wright and an afternoon of Western heritage at Woolaroc, the former ranch retreat of oilman Frank Phillips circa 1925.

Price Tower 66 Price Tower in downtown Bartlesville holds the distinction of being the only realized skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Commissioned by Harold C. Price, the 19-story structure opened in 1956. Today the building hosts offices, The Inn at Price Tower, Copper Bar and the Price Tower Art Center.

From Bartlesville we drove westward to the Osage Hills. Although the multitude of trees stand bare the last week of official winter we easily imagine the beauty of the area in leafy green or the colors of autumn. Woolaroc – the name derived from the words: woods, lakes, rocks – encompasses 3,600 acres. Visitors discover a diverse hidden gem featuring wildlife preserve, museum celebrating the American West, Phillip’s historic lodge home, petting barn, mountain man camp, picnic sites and walking trails.

*Additional Bartlesville HighlightsWoolaroc Bison

*Recommended Eateries

 Another Day, Another Museum

Gilcrease Museum – Tulsa, Oklahoma


No Irish jig, Celtic music or corned beef for us this St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, we spent the day submerged in Western art at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. Another day when we thought we would take in two museums but by 1pm we knew we needed the rest of the afternoon to finish at the Gilcrease.Gilcrease Museum

Permanent Exhibits include:

  • Enduring Spirit: Native American Artistic Traditions
  • The American West
  • Ancient Americans: Treasures from the Hispanic Heritage Collection
  • The Southwest
  • Kravis Discovery Center
  • Olaf Wieghorst
  • KS Ranch – Hands-on Kids Stuff

Featured Limited Time Exhibits include:

  • The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture – through May 2, 2010
  • The West of Olaf Seltzer – through August 29, 2010
  • Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family  – through March 21, 2010

Gilcrease Sculpture We took a break from the exhibits for a pleasant lunch at The Restaurant at Gilcrease overlooking sculptures in the garden and wooded rolling hills. White table linens, sparkling stemware, initialed charger plates and a professional, well-trained staff create an elegant yet comfortable ambiance. The menu offered interesting options from a bison burger, vegetarian quiche or Santa Fe chicken salad to lobster yellow corn soup.

As the volunteer at the information desk said, “It’s good for people to find out we’re not a cultural desert in Oklahoma.”

Recalling Figure Skating History

World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame

 

As the 2010 Winter Olympics unfold across television screens, millions of viewers get swept into the beauty and drama of figure skating competition. Memories glide back to skaters of fame and infamy. Truly, I’m not old enough to remember skating sweetheart Sonja Henie, Olympic champion in 1928, 1932 and 1936. However, I easily recall Carol Heiss competing in the 1956 Olympics and earninExterior Sign[1]g the gold medal in 1960 at Squaw Valley. Since then, with each Winter Olympics, I’ve eagerly anticipated each stroke, sit spin and Salchow.

The World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs takes visitors through an interesting history of skates and development of the sport as well as great skating moments. It’s the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to the history of figure skHamilton Jumpating.

From my earliest attempts I was always skating challenged – spending more time on my ankle bones than on the blades. I could barely make it around the rink let alone execute jumps and spins. In preparation for 2010 Olympic viewing I gravitate towards the museum’s graphic displays detailing the differences of a toe loop, Axel and Lutz jump.

I’m always intrigued by the display of historic skates from cultures around the world. In the eighth century, shank bones were strapped to footwear for transportation across the ice. Indeed, the English word “skate” is derived from the old German word schake, meaning shank or leg bone. Skates from the 18th century show a variety of cast iron blades with elaborately curved prows. I’m still trying to imagine skating on the circa 1900 Japanese skate with a wooden platform and cloth toe thong. When I spot a pair of child’s circular blade “ice walkers” I know that’s where I should have started.

Bones

Japanese Thong Skate

 

 

 

 

 

 Skate in Cube

 

 

 

 

Circular Blade

The museum’s art collection demonstrates skating’s popularity as a subject for artists through the centuries – Delft china to an Andy Warhol painting of Dorothy Hamill. Bronze sculptures capture the flowing lines and grace we associate with the sport. A finely-detailed silver figurine commemorates the only known military battle fought on ice skates, the Battle of Ij in 1572. Accounts say that Dutch troops crossed a frozen river on skates to surprise their Spanish adversaries. The Spanish captain promptly order several thousand pairs of skates for his soldiers. The legend is that the Spaniards lacked both the will and the skill for skating success.

Competition fuels modern battles on the ice. Don’t we all remember Tonya Harding’s scheme to literally “knock” Nancy Kerrigan out of the 1994 Olympics? One piece of skating history not memorialized at the museum. Last week we were subjected to a day of whining after Evgeni Plushenko placed second in Vancouver. Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin weighed in with his opinion.

Olympic Pins - B

Figure skating was the first winter sport contested in the modern Olympics – 1908 in London. Olympic memorabilia abounds recalling positive highlights – posters, costumes, pins, videos, stories from the athletes and even Scott Hamilton’s 1984 Gold Medal.

28 Poster 52 Poster 68 Poster

When You Go: The World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame is tucked away in the Broadmoor neighborhood at 20 First Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hours are 9am-4pm Monday – Friday and 10am-4pm on Saturdays, May through October.

World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame
World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame

Tracing Lincoln’s Trail

Abraham Lincoln was born in a simple Kentucky cabin 201 years ago. With little formal education but great vision, determination, and integrity he abolished slavery and preserved the Union of the United States. Even 145 years after his death the impact of his leadership lives on. Trace his trail from humble boyhood to the presidency by visiting one of the national or state sites memorializing Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site – Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial – Lincoln City, Indiana

lincoln-memorial2Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site – Petersburg, Illinois

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site – Lerna, Illinois

Lincoln/Douglas Debate Museum – Charleston, Illinois

Lincoln Home National Historic Site – Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln – Hendon Law Offices – Springfield, Illinois

Old State Capitol – Springfield, Illinois

Ford Theater National Historic Site – Washington D.C.

Lincoln Tomb – Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln Memorial National Memorial – Washington D.C.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum – Springfield, Illinois