You’ve probably seen work by Tacoma artist Dale Chihuly. His large-scale glass installations, often recognizable by their vibrant colors and Medusa-like tendrils or sea urchin-y spikes, are part of more than 200 museum collections around the world. They’ve appeared in places like Venice and Jerusalem, and Chihuly Garden and Glass, a long-term exhibition, has been on display at Seattle Center next to the Space Needle since 2012.
A very limited number of free tickets are available now for a rare chance to tour the Boathouse, Chihuly’s former residence and current “hot shop” located on Lake Union, where the glass is blown and crafted—a space that is typically closed to the public. (It’s even hard to get permission to show photos of it.)
Two tours will take place on October 17 and will last an hour each. Visitors will get a guided tour of The Boathouse, which displays Chihuly’s collections of art and objects, and also will be able to watch members of Team Chihuly create forms for upcoming exhibitions.
The tours are part of Refract, a new glass arts festival presented by Visit Seattle and Chihuly Garden and Glass that will take place in the Seattle area from October 17 to 20. During the four-day festival, visitors will be able to buy original works from independent artists at the Bell Street Glass Art Market, attend the opening at the Museum of Glass for Transparency: An LGBTQ+ Glass Art Exhibition, the first museum exhibition of Studio Glass works by LGBTQ+ artists, watch demonstrations at a variety of open studios, and much more. Those who want to try their hand at glassmaking can enroll in hands-on lessons and workshops.
The hope is that the festival will introduce people to the thriving studio glass scene in Seattle as well as introduce newcomers to the craft itself. “There’s a lot of mystery about working with glass and how it takes molten shape and cools and becomes a beautiful piece of artwork,” says Amanda Whitever, public relations manager for Chihuly Garden and Glass. “Being able to see that firsthand and participate in the process is a unique thing to do.”
Seattle and the Pacific Northwest at large have long been an epicenter for glassmaking. Since Dale Chihuly opened Pilchuck Glass School in 1971 about an hour north of Seattle, the area has become a popular place for glass artists to work and settle. Currently, more than 700 artists living in Washington State work in glass.
Many Refract events are free; more information about events, travel, and tickets for other portions of the festival is available on its website.
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