For those in the Pacific Northwest, Dale Chihuly is a ‘home-town boy’ (Tacoma to be specific) who has done much to promote the arts, mostly his own passion, glass art. He encourages public access to the arts through the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, tours of the Pilchuck Glass School, and the Chilhuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center.
Besides founding the Pilchuck School of glass that has resulted in the NW having more glass artists then Venice, he created of a program in Tacoma called the Hilltop Glass program, giving at-risk youths a creative outlet by learning to blow glass. He also created Seniors Making Art. And he is generous, supporting museums, art centers, hospitals, schools and health programs, nearly all in the Northwest. He does not list these charitable contributions on his web site. His glass he promotes, his philanthropy he does not. (1)
To the world of art, Chilhuly’s unique, bold style of creating glass sculptures changed what it means to be a glass artist. He broadened the definition of art glass, he installed outdoor sculptures in public places around the world, he raised eyebrows both with his art style and his personal style. And he captured the attention of our Mom!
Mom loved Chilhuly Glass, and was fascinated by the man. She watched (many times!) all the PBS documentaries on Chilhuly and his glass. She tells a story of her and Dad going to Pilchuck many years ago and Dad getting to blow glass. I don’t know if that part is true, but in keeping with Chilhuly’s passion for making art accessible and encourage others to do art, tours are offered at Pilchuck. When Chilhuly began designing and then building the Chilhuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the Seattle Center, which to Mom was ‘in her backyard’, she read about it with interest in the local paper and anticipated it’s opening.
It opened May 2012, the month Mom’s life and mind began to unravel due to Alzheimer’s. Up till then, though diagnosed early due to her voluntary participation in a research study at the University of Washington and Group Health, she seemed to adapt to both the lifestyle changes and cognition changes of the early stages of the disease. Though she did tell me of Chilhuly’s exhibit opening, in my scramble to enlist home care for her to keep her safe at home, while looking at long term solutions, taking her to the Seattle Center was not on the radar.
Mom never did see Chilhuly’s Seattle Center exhibit. So today, after placing her ashes next to Dad’s at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery, our family, including mom’s “adopted” family, had lunch at the Collections Cafe at Garden and Glass, then enjoyed the classic Chilhuly, larger-than-life, bold, colorful, whimsical, beautiful glass sculptures.
For me there were moments of sadness and regret that Mom never was able to see the displays, for she would have loved them. But also smiled to myself as I felt her spirit there, a bit envious, but approving that we celebrated her life amongst the brilliant glass art of a “home-town” boy.
Mom loved not only Chilhuly glass art, but any glass she found to be beautiful, other glass art, crystal, anything made of glass had the potential of appealing to her sense of aesthetics. She often gave gifts made by Seattle based Glass Eye Studio, which uses Mt St Helen’s volcanic ash in the making of it’s glass. Today each person received a last gift from mom, a round glass ornament from The Glass Eye.
There is much more to be read about Dale Chilhuly, you can follow the links given above, do a Google search, but most of all, go see the Chilhuly Garden and Glass, as experiencing glass is what he wants to do.