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Tacoma Museum Showcases Hot Glass, Cool Art

The Tacoma Museum of Glass is one of the few places in the U.S. dedicated to glass art. Visitors to the museum can experience the work of renowned contemporary artists while watching craftsmen create artwork before their eyes. VOA's Joseph Mok has the story. Elaine Lu narrates.

Contemporary glass art is thriving in Tacoma, Washington at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. The museum's curator, Melissa Post, says Tacoma and nearby Seattle have an active community of glass artists.

"Having now probably a thousand hot shops in and around Seattle, this region of the country has become a crossroad for artists from all over the world," Post said. "And not just necessarily artists, glass artists, but artists that are interested in exploring or experiencing glass as a medium."

The glass exhibits are constantly changing and feature some of the world's best-known glass artists.

Post says a piece by Lino Tagliapietra appears to be different things to different people, "He calls this piece Endeavor. He named it after the 1934 British racing yacht. But, of course, being from Murano, and then, of course, the tie into Venice, a lot of people regard this as a "Gondola" installation. Some people also look at it as feathers. And when you look at it in different angles it does different things."

Japanese artist Michiko Miyake is creating a series of blown-glass hands. Artist Martin Blank and his team are tackling a more ambitious permanent installation near the museum's entrance.

"I am creating five to seven islands of glass that edges 10 feet [3 meters]. So in the center by the sign is the apex of the pieces: 13 feet [3.9-meter] tall; five to seven islands that deal with the emotive nature of water," Blank describes. "From steam to ripples, to undulation and flow, each island has its own character. Each island has to work off of the adjacent piece, adjacent island, and ultimately with the architecture that's all around here."

The Hot Shop Amphitheater is housed in a soaring 27-meter-tall cone.

The museum's Benjamin Cobb says the amphitheater pays homage to the local lumber industry, "To my knowledge, he use the cone shape which is, you can find it in the northwest landscape. It is based off of a sawdust burner for old woodmills that are around the area. So, it was these small cones we used to burn off the waste wood and saw dust."

One of the museum's centerpieces is the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a 152-meter-long pedestrian overpass connecting the Museum to downtown Tacoma. The bridge is dedicated to one of the museum's founders, a native of Seattle, Dale Chihuly.

The Tacoma Museum of Glass is where contemporary art links the city's gritty, industrial past with what city leaders hope will be a bright, glittering future.