One of the most spectacular arts destinations in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center. Located on vibrant Beach Drive, the Collection is a stunning permanent exhibit of the works of iconic glass artist Dale Chihuly. Just outside the building, a 21-foot-tall tower of transparent rose-colored crystals hints at the scale of many of Chihuly’s works. Inside, the visitor is led through a series of galleries arranged to show the evolution of the artist’s style. His early works, including the Basket series, were inspired by a vision of liberating the glassblowing process by allowing gravity to influence the shape of blown glass. By 1986, Chihuly was experimenting with the large exotic forms he called Persians. Using optic
molds to strengthen the glass, he was able to create delicate glass forms up to forty inches in diameter, mounting the colorful pieces on walls and ceilings. Just past a stunning wall of glowing Persians is a gallery filled with spectacular Chihuly chandeliers, including his Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier created especially for the Collection. The chandeliers range from three to thirty feet in length and can be made up of as many as one thousand elements of glass attached to a steel armature. Hung together, they resemble a forest of glass.
One of the Collection’s most spectacular installations, the Float Boat, evolved from Chihuly’s childhood experience of finding Japanese glass fishing floats washed up on the shores of Puget Sound. The memory inspired the artist’s Niijima Floats, possibly the largest glass spheres ever blown. Up to forty inches in diameter and weighing as much as eighty pounds, these enormous balls shimmer with complex layers of color. The surreal effect is heightened by their presentation in a wooden rowboat—another memory of Chihuly’s from a time he piled glass left over from a temporary installation in an old boat. The Collection’s final gallery features the Fiore installation—here, Chihuly combines forms to create a spectacular garden of glass.
Visitors who feel inspired may head for the Morean Arts Center’s Glass Studio and Hot Shop, located less than a mile from the Chihuly Collection at the main Morean Arts Center facility. Here it’s possible to watch glass being blown and even to have a hands-on experience. Couples may want to check out the appropriately-named Hot Date in the Hot Shop, offered on select Friday nights. Finally, for a total immersion glass experience, there’s the inaugural St. Petersburg Glass Weekend, March 12-15, 2015. The weekend offers an array of lectures, glass blowing demonstrations, artists’ receptions, and guided tours of public and private collections.
For more information on the Morean Arts Center and the Chihuly Collection, visit the website at www.moreanartscenter.org or telephone 727-822-7872. For more information on the St. Petersburg Glass Weekend, telephone 727-896-4527.