A Trip to the Tacoma Museum of Glass

Back in May (yes I realize I’m a bit behind in posting about all my adventures!) my cousin came out to visit from her home state of Michigan.  She spent a few days with her brother in Oregon (I have spent years training my cousin and her family to not pronounce it Ore-Gone), and then hopped the Amtrak up to my neck of the woods.  I took Friday off work and my mom, Megan and I went on a road trip down to Portland to visit my brother, my sis-in-law and my nieces and nephews.

The plan was to take the whole day to make it to Portland, stopping at a few places along the way to do some sightseeing.  I drive that long, boring road several times a year, and I was looking forward to an opportunity to do a bit of touristing in my own backyard.  A few weeks before the visit, I emailed my cousin a list of the potential to-dos on the way down the I-5 corridor to Portland (what can I say – I like to have a plan).  She picked some things that appealed to her and off we went.

After an evening of drinking wine, laughing and staying up too late (it is the rare night when I stay up until midnight anymore!), we dragged ourselves out of bed and got on the road.  After a couple of hours on the road we were at the Tacoma Museum of Glass.  I have been curious about it for a while, but hadn’t yet made it down for a visit.  The Museum of Glass was the brainchild of Dr. Phillip Phibbs, the retired President of the University of Puget Sound.  He contacted Dale Chihuly, a local glass artist who has gained worldwide acclaim for his huge indoor and outdoor glass installations, and a plan was hatched.  About the same time, the City of Tacoma was working on a plan of urban renewal, and was looking for a project that could anchor a revamp of a waterway that had historically been part of a working waterfront.

The Museum of Glass is a 75,000 square foot building with 13,000 of gallery space, and a 7,000 foot hot shop.  The hot shop is a glass blowing demonstration area with seating for 145 people.  There are several demonstrations each day and they are streamed live online.  The museum also has a visiting artist program, where artists complete a residency of anywhere from a few days to several weeks.  One piece from each artist’s residency goes into the permanent collection.

Blue Glass Vase at the Tacoma Museum of Glass

Blue Glass Vase at the Tacoma Museum of Glass

We checked out the fountain in front of the museum and admired the beautiful glass pieces that make it so pretty.  Created by Martin Blank, it consists of 754 individual pieces of glass!  They are all clear glass pieces, and it made me wonder if maybe they have colored lights shining on them at night.  Since we were only there during the day, we didn’t get to find out.

After going inside the museum, we got some lunch at Choripan, an Argentine restaurant.  I had the squash soup (very good – thick and creamy with just the right amount of spice) and the empanada.  It has been a long time since I had an empanada, and these guys did a very good job.  It was doughy and delicious.

We checked out the hot shop, and caught the tail end of a glass blowing demonstration.  Then we went inside the galleries.  The pieces in the collection were all contemporary, and there were a wide variety of themes.  Abstract figural glass, pots and bowls, landscape-type pieces to hang on the wall.  There were several Native American style pieces, and for lack of a better description, there were several still life style pieces, like what you might find in an office building or a restaurant display.

The displays were neat, but I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any historic glass.  It would have been nice to see how glass-making has changed over time.  I know, I know, it is the history nerd in me!  I also thought that the gallery space was a bit on the small side.  13,000 square feet in a 75,000 square foot building?  What are they doing with all that extra space?  The Hot Shop is only 7,000 square feet.

This Piece is Supposed to Evoke the Rolling Hills of Scotland and Bales of Hay - Do You See It?  My Mom and I Did!

This Piece is Supposed to Evoke the Rolling Hills of Scotland and Bales of Hay – Do You See It? My Mom and I Did!

Native American Themed Glass

Native American Themed Glass

After our time in the gallery, we saw the outdoor Bridge of Glass.  The Bridge of Glass is a pedestrian walkway that goes over the freeway, connecting the waterway where the museum is located to the downtown Tacoma core.  There are three main features of the bridge of glass.  One section is a covered portion of the walkway, with 2,364 pieces of large Chihuly glass placed on a plate glass ceiling.  You could spend hours looking up at the different pieces and always see something new!  There is an installation called the Crystal Towers, which a two 40 foot tall polyurethane sculptures which are made to withstand the weather – and they glow at night!

The Glass Ceiling on the Bridge of Glass

The Glass Ceiling on the Bridge of Glass

And, my favorite part of the bridge, the Venetian Wall, which consists of 109 blown glass Chihuly pieces that are set into a section of the walkway.  They rise four levels high, and are extremely intricate and beautiful.  Amazing!  We spent a while trying to decide on our favorites, but it was really an impossible task!

The Venetian Wall on the Bridge of Glass

The Venetian Wall on the Bridge of Glass

Closer View of the Venetian Wall - See That Detail!

Closer View of the Venetian Wall – See That Detail!

And with that, it was time to get back on the road and keeping heading towards our destination.  Our visit to the Museum of Glass was very enjoyable – it doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to feel like you have seen all you need to see.  And at $12 per adult, it isn’t overly expensive either.  If you have a chance, it is certainly worth seeing!


5 thoughts on “A Trip to the Tacoma Museum of Glass

  1. I stopped by to let you know you won the book State by State and found this lovely post about the glass. I love how you merge beautiful places and things with their history in this blog. The wine reading is fun too. Anyway, let me know how you’d like me to get in touch with the book. If you are on FB, you can message me at Betsy Donovan Marro or send me a direct tweet at EGMarro@twitter.com.

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