My appreciation for glass as art started with Dale Chihuly. Thanks to public installations all over the country, his name has become synonymous with glass as art.
There’s the permanent installation at The Indianapolis Children’s Museum in Indianapolis; it towers maybe three stories. Guests are invited to stretch out on cushy benches beneath the sculpture to gaze at the rich colors. Whimsical lengths of glass flowers grace the ceiling in the cafeteria at Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. Regardless of the season, the light shining through or bouncing off the installations brightens the room and often the spirits of diners. Once I opened my mind to glass as artwork, I started to notice its beauty and, fortunately, stumbled upon studios, installations and DIY experiences at “hot shops” all over the country.
In the northwest: Seattle, Wash.
In Seattle, visitors usually have the Space Needle on their bucket list. Be sure to see it, then stick around. The 1½-acre Chihuly Garden and Glass center is located at the base. The center showcases Chihuly’s illustrious 50-plus year career. The location is big and the installations are, too. Make time to walk through the Glass Forest, the Chandelier Room and other masterpieces installed in the eight galleries. There is so much to see, consider picking up a headset for a self-guided audio tour or signing on for a 30-minute guided tour. Escorted tours lead through the galleries to the Glass House and into the gardens. There are pop-up Spotlight Talks at various places throughout the galleries; if you have a question, there is an expert to answer it.
On the waterfront: Orange Beach, Ala.
For those who travel to Alabama for it’s sandy beaches and gorgeous sunsets, here’s an idea for an off-beach day. Drive over to the Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach. (It has a waterfront connection as it overlooks Wolf Bay.) At the Center, guests can watch glass artists at work, browse the wonderful gift shop or make a glass treasure. The day I visited, bright flowers dotted the walkway toward the door — upon closer inspection I discover the flowers were made of glass. There are DIY options including hot glass demonstrations and make-your-own fused/blown glass in The Hot Shop, as well as pottery classes in The Clay Studio. Inside the fine arts gallery, the gift shop offers a selection of glass art pieces as well as other two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork by artists from the Gulf Coast area.
Upstate: Corning, N.Y.
Be prepared to be awestruck by breathtaking pieces of glass representing art, history, technology and craft at the Corning Museum of Art. Located in Corning, N.Y., the world’s largest glass museum displays 35 centuries of glass history and houses more than 50,000 objects. A “Fun with Glass” experience provides an opportunity to create blown glass ornaments, maybe shape molten glass into flowers, fuse glass into a sun catcher or sandblast a drinking glass. More than 40 demonstrations are offered daily. Extra curious? Check the information desk about museum tours.
Down home: Grapevine, Texas
Grapevine is famous as the Christmas Capital of Texas, which is probably why I decided to make a tree ornament at Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery. Visiting Grapevine is great fun for its history and a true Texas experience — meaning hospitality reigns from one end of town to the other. It is especially felt at Vetro, where guests can watch artists in a state-of-the-art working studio from a seated gallery or step up to help create a treasure. There are live glassblowing demonstrations, too.
Historic: Corydon and Harrison County, Ind.
A lot of Hoosier traditions started in Indiana’s hometown: Historic Corydon and Harrison County. One started 75 years ago, when the Zimmerman family began to make glass as art. Today, the hot shop creates hand-made glass products that range from paper weights to lamps, even olive oil bottles. Now in its fifth generation, the family uses the same tools they learned to use as children. In all, Zimmerman makes 110 different pieces in the glass factory; there are glass decorator items, fruit and holiday ornaments vases and glass-woven baskets.