Glass fireworks make quite a blast at museum

The star of the show wasn't there. But given the artwork they were there to see, few in the crowd took note.

When The Children's Museum unveiled "Fireworks of Glass," a 43-foot-tall blown glass sculpture by internationally renowned artist Dale Chihuly on Saturday, its creator was on an airplane, winging his way to Indianapolis for an evening black-tie gala.Yet his sense of joy was present in the sculpture, the largest permanent blown-glass piece that Chihuly has created.The lively, multi colored "Fireworks of Glass" rises five stories in the center of the museum, surrounded by the ramps that take visitors to each of the museum's five levels of galleries.

The unveiling, which featured remarks by Jeffrey Patchen, the museum's president and chief executive officer, and Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, attracted hundreds of people who lined the ramps. The crowd broke into applause when museum officials finally lifted the blue curtain that hid the sculpture, which was paid for by $4.5 million in private funding.

"Fireworks of Glass" consists of two parts. First, there is a 43-foot-tall, 9-ton tower, which is made up of more than 3,000 blown glass "horns" mounted on a steel armature. Like a nest of snakes, the horns create a mass of serpentine shapes, in hues that range from bright reds and yellows to pale blues and violets. There's a sense of vitality about it, almost as if the individual pieces were writhing and coiling.

The tower sits on top of a 4-foot-deep, 10-ton glass-encased base that contains more than 1,600 Chihuly-designed glass pieces in shapes reminiscent of seashells and flowers. The base serves as a ceiling for an activity center on first level of the museum.

In the activity center on Saturday, children used computers to simulate blowing glass in a virtual hot shop, created their own miniature towers using plastic replicas of Chihuly shapes and reclined on a rotating bench to gaze at works displayed overhead in the ceiling.

Chihuly has created both towers and ceilings in the past. But in a telephone interview from his Seattle studio last week, he said this is the first project to feature a tower atop a ceiling. "It's fairly complicated, conceptually and structurally," he said.

It's also deceptive in appearance, said Gregory R. Thompson, owner of Indiana Artglass and G.R.T. Hot Glass Studio. "It may look like everything was done randomly," he said, referring to the wild array of glass horns on the tower, "but there was a lot of forethought put into it."

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600450 Glass fireworks make quite a blast at museum
Date: 20 March 2006

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