Arts & Events

Chihuly, students make art

World-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly worked with students not only to help them create beautiful art pieces, but to change their lives. The Museum of Glass in Tacoma hosts one of the few glass museums with “hot shops,” glassblowing studios that allow the general public to watch the entire process of making glass artwork. On Sept. 17 and 19, the Museum of Glass held a Collaborazione with Dale Chihuly and Hilltop Artists, an experience for the public to witness a live glassblowing demonstration of original Chihuly designs.Students from Hilltop Artists helped Chihuly’s team create unique vases that will be auctioned for $750 at a Hilltop Artists fundraiser on Oct. 2. Audience members were treated to an exclusive look as the artists transformed balls of glass into intricate vases.Local glass artist Charles Parriot walked through the shop, naming each of the tools and techniques used in the glassblowing process, such as jacks for cutting lines into the glass and the gloryhole, a firebrick oven heated to 2,150 degrees Fahrenheit.Parriot said that basic process was simple; glass balls are connected to puntils (heatproof poles), warmed in the gloryhole, blown into shape, bent and prodded and cut and rolled into other designs, reheated, shaped, often other glass is added to create a rim or handle or other artistic flairs, then reheated. The puntil stick is allowed to cool, then an artist in a heavy, heat-proof suit and gloves takes the glass off the stick, holds it as the bottom is heated to seal the hole, and places it in an “annealing” oven, which will allow the glass to cool slowly and better retain its shape.If you’re from Seattle or Tacoma, you know Dale Chihuly, one of the world’s most famous glass art designers. Chihuly’s work can be seen in numerous locations around the world, as well as locally at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Seattle Center in downtown Seattle, and even right here on campus in Wyatt Hall.His work serves as a great inspiration in many respects, but the biggest impact has most likely come from Hilltop Artists, an organization designed to help middle-school kids at risk find a new direction in life through the art of glassblowing. He helped start the program with Cathy Kaderick in 1994, and has been contributing funds, supplies, and often his own designs and expertise ever since.Hilltop Artists has helped over 8,000 students since its inception, and each student has a unique life experience. One student, Anthony, explained that his drug addiction would have consumed his life if it had not been for Chihuly. He said what makes Chihuly different is that “he doesn’t care about imperfections. He understands that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be art.” This philosophy and program helped Anthony find a purpose in life again, bringing him back to school and establishing a deep love for glass art that will carry over into a future career.Anthony was not the only student who walked up to Chihuly several times throughout the Collaborazione to thank him for his work and for being such an inspiration in their lives.Art is not always just a spectacle to look at and admire. Art can sometimes be an escape from a dark reality. Chihuly, through Hilltop Artists and his amazing glass masterpieces, has become a source of inspiration for many children looking to find purpose in their lives once more.This demonstration was not just a group of artists blowing glass. It was a group of artists whose lives had been changed simply by blowing glass.