The permanent Chihuly collection at St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center
Dale Chihulyis perhaps the most well-known glass artist in the world. Outside of the artist’s hometown of Tacoma, Washington, the sole museum devoted to his work is in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Morean Arts Center opened a permanent Chihuly collection display in 2010, along with a glass studio that is the brainchild of Chihuly himself. The presentation of this groundbreaking, large-scale glass work, housed in a building and garden designed specifically for the purpose of its viewing, is unlike any other.
Experiencing the Chihuly Collection
Chihuly’s glass pieces are eye candy for the soul. The works are stunning and made of jewel tone colors, rich and vibrant beyond belief. Chihuly is known for using every color he could get his hands on and proclaims that he “never met a color [he] didn’t like.” Every piece of the installation commands your attention and truly draws you in. Some of the installation is so organic it appears to sprout right out of the ground, letting nature take its course.
The process of making glass is itself quite organic and begins with raw materials such as sand, silica, and limestone. Melt in materials such as copper to create red glass, turn all that into liquid, and then it can be molded, pushed, and pulled into all sorts of shapes. Chihuly pushed glass and shapes to the edge of thinness and collapsibility to create never-before-seen compositions. He is credited with transforming glass art methods and creating multipart environmental installations and visual experiences that have influenced contemporary art at large.
The Morean Arts Center collection consists of 18 installations spanning several of the artist’s most popular series. His early years were influenced by his love of Native American basket and blanket weaving, which played a fundamental role in developing his art. There is also a gorgeous display of his Seaform series. Of course, it is Chihuly’s bodacious chandeliers that take center stage and illuminate the dimly lit rooms one enters first. Some of his chandeliers are larger than life and contain anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 pieces of glass. “Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier” was created specifically for this collection and is a highlight along with “Mille Fiori.” The art and architecture in this space work together to create a unique visitor experience.
This collection of Chihuly glass can only truly be appreciated in person. The drive to St. Petersburg is fairly quick and easy and makes for the perfect weekend getaway. (The drive is pleasant as long as you do not go through Orlando.)
About the Morean Arts Center
The location of the permanent Chihuly installation is an art center steeped in history. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017, St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center began as a group of artists connecting with the Florida Winter Art School in the early 20th century. This group forged The Art Club of St. Petersburg and opened what was the first art gallery south of Atlanta. The busy Art Club grew along with its city, moving to several different locations before merging with The Arts Center Association to create The Arts Center in the ‘70s. The Morean family’s generous financial support led to its renaming in 2005, and the Morean Arts Center continued to expand its programming and exhibitions.