Tacoma – Land of Glass

Tacoma - Bridge of Glass 1

Glass art on the Chihuly bridge of glass.

In all my years living in Seattle, I only visited Tacoma, Washington, once – to table at a gay pride celebration, back when I worked for Equal Rights Washington. Mostly what I remember about that day is that I couldn’t get a ride back to Seattle, and had to schlep all my tabling supplies back to the office on the bus. The only other time I went to Tacoma was to the ferry station – it’s where we caught the boat to go to Vashon Island, where my grandmother lived.

So I never knew that Tacoma had more than a decent bus system and a nice ferry dock until I went out there for work. In fact, Tacoma is absolutely teaming with glass art. Dale Chihuly, the famous glass artist who is best known for his marine-inspired pieces, has a studio in Tacoma, and the city has turned to glass art to help revitalize its downtown.

Tacoma - Bridge of Glass 2

A glass sculpture from the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a public art piece in Tacoma.

While I can’t say that the revitalization was successful (seriously, we were all kind of unnerved by the lack of people in the city downtown – even at rush hour on a Monday morning), the glass art was certainly interesting to look at. We stayed at the Hotel Murano, which is right by the Convention Center, and features a different glass artist on every floor. The hotel has a modern style, which I really liked, and it was a nice complement to the art pieces throughout the hotel.

Tacoma - Murano - Lobby

Glass art in the lobby at the Murano.

Elpis and Justice and I made it down to the Museum of Glass one evening, to check out the glass exhibits. We walked across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a public art piece that features Chihuly’s work. At night, the bridge is really beautiful, with all the different glass pieces are lit up to their best advantage. But my favorite part of the Museum of Glass wasn’t the regular exhibits, but a special exhibit from artist Preston Singletary, an artist who explores his Tlingit heritage through glass art. The pieces were beautiful and restrained – and, sadly, I couldn’t take photos in the exhibit.

Tacoma - Bridge of Glass 4

Another Bridge of Glass detail.

Still, I’m not sure how I feel about glass art. I’m much more of a 16th century still life kind of girl. But as a strategy for downtown revitalization, investing in glass art seems like a better strategy to me than investing in bars, or casinos, or weird traffic patterns.

Tacoma - Murano - Bite

Another glass sculpture in the Murano. What I really love, however, are those dining chairs.



  1. Alice said

    The last picture reminds me of a casino in Reno. Maybe these glass artists could get commissions making casinos look classy (not possible). The second to last one, though, is stunning. I would love pieces like that in my home, or in a park, anywhere.

    • moderndomestic said

      Hah! That is a good point. Although I’ve never been to a Casino in Reno – and the one I went to in Atlantic City had much more in common with Disneyland style-wise.

      I feel like the Chihuly stuff is stunning the first time you see it – but it doesn’t really draw me back to look at it and think about it. I’m like “oh – pretty. Nice colors. It’s glass, but it’s also sea life. Neat” But there are pieces in the National Portrait Gallery that I go back to again and again to look at them, think about them and see them in new ways. That’s how I felt about the Preston Singletary stuff (check out his web site: http://prestonsingletary.com/) – the pieces were really beautiful and evocative, and I wanted to spend time looking at them and figuring them out. I don’t feel that way about Chihuly. I don’t need to go back to the bridge of glass.

  2. Zak Nelson said

    Hey there Jenna! Glad you had a nice stay in Tacoma! Next time give us a heads up and we’ll gladly help you plan your itinerary, offer suggestions of things to do + see based on your interest, and chit chat about what we know best: Tacoma + Pierce County!

    Zak Nelson
    Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau

  3. […] “We were all kind of unnerved by the lack of people in the city downtown—even at rush hour on a Monday morning,” writes blogger Jenna Huntsberger on her site moderndomestic.com. […]

  4. […] So has formerly run-down and crime-ridden Tacoma found the formula to success with glass? If success looks like lots and lots of Chihuly, then yes. But if success looks like a vibrant downtown, open 24/7, then … not yet, but there are numerous hopeful signs. Still, some visitors express unease:. “We were all kind of unnerved by the lack of people in the city downtown—even at rush hour on a Monday morning,” writes blogger Jenna Huntsberger on her site moderndomestic.com. […]

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