By Deanna Duff
making its mark
One of only three glass museums in the nation, MOG focuses on contemporary glass. “Glass is an expressive material and unparalleled as an art medium,” says Susan Warner, MOG’s executive director. The museum has welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors from all 50 states and more than 75 countries. In addition to international exhibits, the museum showcases Northwest artists. “We appreciate the energy they bring and we have a wonderfully symbiotic relationship,” says Warner.
The public feels the heat in the Hot Shop. MOG’s permanent team and visiting artists create masterpieces live and in front of the public using furnaces heated to 2,300 degrees. “It’s one of the few places that offers a glimpse into the working-artist’s studio,” says Benjamin Cobb, MOG’s lead Hot Shop gaffer. “It’s the heart and soul of the museum.” The Hot Shop has hosted more than 300 visiting artists and some MOG exhibitions have been Hot Shop-created exclusives.
Tacoma native Dale Chihuly was an inspiration for founding the museum and instrumental in shaping the vision. “Glass has taken off and become a world-renowned art form, which Dale’s very proud of,” says Billy O’Neill, vice-president of Chihuly Studio. Chihuly’s ongoing support includes Hot Shop visits — such as September’s anniversary appearance which often attracts more than 1,000 daily spectators. “MOG plays an incredible role in not only celebrating local artists, but welcoming artisans from throughout the world. We’re really fortunate,” says O’Neill.
Italian Maestro Lino Tagliapietra, nearly 80-years-old, is one of the world’s preeminent glass artists and a longtime MOG supporter. “MOG not only represents Northwestern America, it has an important role in the entire world of glass,” says Tagliapietra. MOG’s current exhibit, “Maestro: Recent Works” by Lino Tagliapietra, (through Jan. 6), showcases 65 pieces made during the last decade of MOG’s lifespan. Tagliapietra also will return for a Hot Shop visit Oct. 10-14. “What I enjoy most about the experience is the possibility for people to sit in an arena setting and watch glassblowers making their magic and spinning mysteries,” Tagliapietra said.
Glass is more than vases and fine vessels. Sometimes it’s fantastical, funky creatures. Started in 2005, MOG’s Kids Design Glass program encourages those 12-years-old and under to design pieces to be made in the Hot Shop. More than 70 works have been created from the colorful, often crayon-drawn ideas. A full exhibition ran from 2009-2011. “It’s raw imagination. No one walks out of that exhibit without a smile on their face,” says Susan Newsom, MOG communications manager. The crowd favorite is scheduled to become a traveling exhibition.
blowing into the future
“We want to build our audiences for the future,” said Warner. As of 2012, MOG created a youth advisory committee and launched a glass class in partnership with the University of Washington Tacoma. MOG also is collaborating with the Seattle Center’s new Chihuly Garden and Glass to eventually offer a “Glass Express” bus for visitors. “MOG symbolizes creativity, imagination and the future. We want to ensure that we remain vibrant for the next 100 years,” says Warner.
From top to bottom and left to right: photo by Chuck Lysen, Russell Johnson, Stewart Charles Cohen courtesy Chihuly Studio, Stephen Vest and courtesy Museum of Glass.