Photography by Al Hurley

The Chihuly Experience

A Celebration in Glass

Story by Marcia Biggs

The light catches your eye like a Ferris wheel at night, brilliant and mesmerizing and filled with an energy all its own. It’s the light that transfixes you as it emanates and reflects off the deep jewel tones of the glass art sculptures that make up the Chihuly Collection.

Enshrined in its own 7,600 square foot gallery, some 16 installations containing thousands of pieces of glass make up this collection of work by renowned Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly. Although his work can be found in more than 200 museums worldwide, the St. Petersburg location marks the artist’s first permanent site.

“The response has been beyond our expectations,” says Katee Tully, executive director of the Morean Arts Center, which owns and operates the Chihuly Collection. “We are definitely making an impact as an impetus for bringing more people, arts and culture to downtown St. Petersburg.”

When it opened July 10 a collective sigh of relief was felt from Seattle to St. Petersburg. The very birth of this collection over the past two years was fraught with roadblocks and at times it seemed the entire project would never see the light of day.

But now, the collection—and the gallery itself—are nothing short of spectacular.

Thanks to Tampa architect Alberto Alfonso, founding principal and president of Alfonso Architects, the visitor is enveloped in a sensual environment that flows organically between installations.

Dale Chihuly’s love of nature is the inspiration for most of his signature glass sculptures that take organic forms such as undulating flower petals, glowing orbs, and sea creatures. The brilliant orange “Persians” installation mounted along one wall is a joyous study in color and movement (according to the principles of chromotherapy, orange is considered warm and joyful and connects to our emotional self).

Indeed, the interplay of vivid colors and light from emerald green and cobalt blue to lemon yellow, lavender, pink, aqua and magenta found in Chihuly’s works is a celebration of life. It’s a playful world of chandeliers made of swirling cylinders and orbs, and delicate sea forms reminiscent of corals and shells. A beached wooden rowboat filled with glass globes of every size and color is a favorite of many, as is the Persian Ceiling, a clear glass hallway through which visitors look up to find an enchanting assortment of colorful glass similar to an underwater coral garden filled with sea life.

The Chihuly Collection at 400 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg; 727.896.4527 or www.chihulycollectionstpete.com. Ticket prices vary from $15 ($13 seniors, $12 students) for the Collection to $20 ($16, $14) including the Hot Shop and Morean Galleries.

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Photography by Terry Rishel

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