Jaw-dropping Chihuly Garden and Glass anchors the Seattle Center; Space Needle, MoPOP nearby!

The Glass Forest, an early work by Chihuly from the 1970s, is first to greet you as you enter the exhibition galleries.

Chihuly Garden and Glass anchors the Seattle Center; home to Space Needle, MoPOP, Monorail near downtown Seattle

The Sealife Tower reaches 15 feet in height, evincing Chihuly's love of the sea and Puget Sound.

Imagine, a life-size Glass Forest with ghostly blue and pink light glowing from the trunks. Picture a Sealife Tower, 15 feet tall exuding iridescent primary colors emulating the sea floor and Puget Sound. Turn into another gallery and stand under the Persian Ceiling, with overhead Persian glass art aglow in kaleidoscopic red, orange, ruby and yellow. Exit the galleries into the Glasshouse, and find, floating 30 feet above, a 100 foot-long art installation of a colorful palette featuring yellow, orange, brown and amber glass – framing the Space Needle towering 605 feet over head.

After an hour, we’re nearing virtual sensory overload as our eyes and minds work overtime to take in these stunning, ethereal art objects exploding with light and colors.

Our place of wonder is Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term art exhibition that opened in 2012. Located at the base of the Seattle Space Needle, it helps anchor Seattle Center, the home of the 1962 World’s Fair that since has brought Seattle art, sports and excitement of almost every stripe.

In the Glasshouse, a 100 foot long Chihuly installation frames nearby the Space Needle.

Dale Chihuly, born in 1941 in Tacoma, WA, began his infatuation with glass while studying at the University of Washington. He then enrolled in the first glass program in the country at University of Wisconsin and continued to study at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Since, he has become world renowned with art housed in over 200 museums worldwide and major exhibitions staged in Jerusalem, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago and Royal Botanic Gardens near London.

The Persian ceiling is a colorful homage to Persian art.

He’s exhibited at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and one of his works hangs in the lobby of the San Joaquin County Administration Building, at Weber and San Joaquin Streets in downtown Stockton. Chihuly’s work is testimony to his talent, and that of his team, of extending the possibilities and boundaries of glass as art, in both execution and presentation.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass experience includes eight galleries, a centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush outdoor Garden. After spending about an hour and a half in the indoor galleries, our senses swimming with color and vibrancy, we took a break outdoors and watched three Chihuly contemporaries work together to blow a delicate pink glass vase on a milky white pedestal. Best of all, they were working out of a 1962 Airstream travel trailer, converted to house two glass-blowing furnaces reaching 2200°.

A Chihuly contemporary works on blown-glass from a 2200 degree furnace.

After the glassblowing demonstration, we then walked through a light drizzle in the outdoor Garden to admire four major installations that dominate a landscape that contains daylilies, dogwoods, camellias and a variety of trees to add to the Crystal and Icicle Towers and the installation of Reeds on Logs. At the center, backed by the Space Needle, is the giant Sun, bursting with oranges and yellows.

After almost three hours at the Chihuly exhibition, we walk under the Seattle Monorail (another vestige of the World’s Fair) to see nearby attractions like the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), just a block away. With its roots in rock and roll, it serves as a entryway museum with innovative galleries such as Sound Lab, Sky Church (a concert venue with the world’s largest LED screen and high-tech lighting and sound) and a huge collection of over 100,000 historical objects including about 75% of all music generated in the Northwest in the last 100 years. MoPop is housed in a flowing 140,000 square foot building designed by Frank O. Gehry – the building itself is well worth seeing!

Seattle Center was home to the 1962 World’s Fair and contains Key Arena, the Space Needle, Seattle Children’s Museum, Seattle Children’s Theater, MoPOP, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center and Boeing IMAX theater, a number of theaters and much more.

This colorful art installation towers over visitors in one of the galleries.

Seattle’s Monorail is just steps from the Chihuly Garden and MoPOP; for those with energy to spare, hop the Monorail to downtown Seattle and its terminous, just three blocks from the ever-popular Pike Place Market.

A big part of finishing this feature was working to pick the top 6-8 photos of this mind-blowing exposition, from the over 100 wonderful shots my wife and I have taken! Make Chihuly’s work a part of your next trip to the Seattle area!

Reeds on Logs, one of the lovely art installments in the outdoor Garden area.

How to get to Seattle, WA: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s 810 miles and 12.5 hours; or, fly into SeaTac Airport.

For more information: Chihuly Garden and Glass, chihulygardenandglass.com, (206) 753-4940; Seattle Center, seattlecenter.com; for Washington State tourism, experiencewa.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

The Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is just a block away.

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  • Blog Author

    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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