Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tacoma's Museum of Glass

I have been wanting to go to the Museum of Glass (MOG) in Tacoma since before it was even open to the public in 2002. The biggest draw is Dale Chihuly's Bridge of Glass, which extends over a highway to provide free-to-the-public access between the three downtown Tacoma museums. The bridge was not quite what I thought it would be (you don't walk on glass), but the incredible array of colors and forms definitely exceeded all my expectations! I took a million pictures, which I hope to post some of later. But first, let's talk about the MOG itself.

The MOG is architecturally intriguing, very modern with lots of chrome and concrete, but something about the space saves it from being cold and boring. Maybe it's the sky? It is on a little waterway with moored boats, and in the background you can see Mt. Rainier, The Tacoma Dome, and an impressive suspension bridge. Personally, I think it is the sun hitting the outdoor glass instillation, illuminating clear glass forms so they appear whitish, reflecting off the shallow pool they are set into.

Inside the MOG are some incredible pieces, most notably an enormous glass triptych entitled Gathering the Light. Painstakingly created in a multitude of stages by Cappy Thompson, the riot of color radiates from within. Add sunlight, and it shines like a creation of the gods. Also not-to-be-missed is the gallery of works designed by children and recreated in glass onsite by the Hot Shop team - there are over 50 whimsical creations to enjoy. The gallery of Preston Singletary is quite impressive as well, recreating Tlingit (Native American) designs into glass sculpture.

Unfortunately, there isn't much more to talk about in the MOG. There are only 2 galleries, a shop, a cafe, a theater, and a children's learning room. For some reason there is a long hallway to the bathrooms entitled "Alley of Art" that has NO art in it, although the glass wall allowing you views of the domed courthouse is impressive - if you manage to overlook the depressing train tracks immediately outside. We definitely enjoyed ourselves, but at the cost of $12 per ticket, we were not impressed.

That is, until we plopped down in the Hot Shop and watched a team of glass makers work for over an hour. Watching the techniques, seeing the transformations through various stages to create a final product, was all riveting. There are some dull moments when the piece is in the furnace and everyone stands around waiting for a minute,  and yet you still can't look away. I'll be posting some pictures here soon that show the progression of one piece - I missed the initial stage and the final product, but it's still fascinating.

In the end, was it worth the $12? Yes, but only because of the Hot Shop. I would have felt better if there were separate admission prices, say $7 for the Hot Shop and $5 for the museum. Even $10 to see the glass making in action would have been worth it, then they could charge an extra $2-$3 to see the museum. Oh well, in the end it was all quite enjoyable, gorgeous, and definitely worth the price of admission.