Dallas Arboretum Hosts Chihuly’s Glass Artworks

Rosie Carbo's picture

Dale Chihuly, the “Picasso of glass artworks,” has attracted so many visitors to his outdoor exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden recently, that last year’s attendance records have been broken. “Our attendance is up 78 percent from the same time last year in June and July,” said Public Relations Manager Wendy Rentz.  “So yes, I do think that Chihuly’s exhibit has a lot to do with that hike in attendance.”


Chihuly - Dallas Arboretum    



Since its installation in the 66-acre Dallas Arboretum in May, the Chihuly exhibit has also drawn a number of visitors from a five-state area.  Moreover, this is the first time the residents of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas see Chihuly artworks in a natural outdoor setting.


“Chihuly’s wife is from Oklahoma, so there’s a permanent exhibit in Oklahoma City.  But this is the first time for the five-state region that his exhibit is outdoors,” said Rentz, who confirmed that the Dallas exhibit closes Nov. 5.


Last year, more than half a million visitors from some 50 countries converged on the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  In fact, the vast nature preserve is on the former estate of the late Dallas resident Everette De Golyer.  So organizers concurred it was the ideal setting for the exhibit.


DeGolyer’s dream began in the 1930s and became a reality in 1974 with the founding of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society.  Today, the Arboretum is on the grounds of DeGolyer’s own estate.  Moreover, the Dallas outdoor venue is listed among the top three arboretums in the nation.


In this serene setting, surrounded by a multitude of colorful flowers and plants, Chihuly has created more than a dozen mind-blowing glassworks.  The Persian Pond, the Mexican Hat Tower, and others are among the colorful sculptures dotting the expansive outdoor entertainment venue.


Chihuly Persian Pool

Chihuly Persian Pool   


Mary Brinegar, CEO and president of the Dallas Arboretum Botanical Garden, spent more than a decade advocating for Chihuly’s exhibit before the Dallas City Council, Dallas businesses and civic leaders.


“The exhibition overwhelms the visitor or viewer.  It’s amazing, the majesty, the imagination, the color…A great big congratulations to Dallas Arboretum CEO Mary Brinegar whose passion and 10-year quest to bring this world-class exhibition to North Texas paid off,” said Martha Tiller, a Dallas marketing and communications executive.  


In the last 10 years, Chihuly’s free-standing sculptures and mammoth glass installations have graced museums, art galleries, botanic gardens, and businesses around the world.  In fact, nearly 100 of his unique glass works of art have been displayed in more than half a dozen countries.


Chihuly - Dallas Arboretum   


Global recognition and the kind of overall uniqueness that appeals to adults and children alike have helped make the Chihuly six-month long exhibit a rousing success.


“We’ll do an economic impact study at the end of the exhibit.  But right now, I can say that this exhibit has been very successful,” said Phillip Jones, CEO and President of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.


“Visitors have been blown away by it; they’ve just been raving about it. The exposure has been great for Dallas,” said Jones, adding that the DCVB partnered with the DABG to bring the exhibit, presented by AT&T and Bank of America. 


“We were very involved with the Arboretum to bring the exhibit to Dallas. So obviously, we were involved in its promotion and the ticket sales.  Our goal was to sell one million tickets,” he said.     


Chihuly - Dallas Arboretum


And while the goal of one million has not yet been met, Jones is optimistic that cooler weather combined with the annual state fair will boost ticket sales and meet or exceed the goal of one million soon.


“We’re about to hit the fall season, and September and October are the best times to visit the Arboretum.  We also have the State Fair of Texas going on at that time, so I think we will meet our goal of one million in ticket sales,” said Jones.


Chihuly’s work is on display at more than 200 museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institution’s American Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Coming Museum of Glass.  De Young Museum in San Francisco and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts have hosted major indoor exhibits of his work.


Chihuly - Dallas Arboretum


In 1968, after being awarded a Fulbright fellowship, Chihuly went to the Venini glass factory in Venice to study the art of blown glass.  In 1999, the Tacoma, Washington native undertook one of his most challenging works, “Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem.”  He installed the massive light exhibit at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem, where it attracted one million visitors.


By 2009, Chihuly was a household name with clients not only in museums, but corporations and individuals.  In fact, a close friend of Tiller’s has a huge Chihuly glass centerpiece on her formal dining room table.


Chihuly’s installations are colorful art objects that seem whimsical and thought-provoking at the same time.  Glassworks can be fragile, especially when hand-blown and twisted into giant flowers, plants, and things of beauty.


But Chihuly’s larger-than-life glassworks proved to be far more resilient than expected.  In June, when a typical Dallas rain storm blasted the artworks with golf-ball size hail, they escaped unscathed.


“The entire Dallas Arts community was so concerned that the outdoor exhibit was going to be severely damaged,” said Richard Pollak, president and CEO of Rainbow Entertainment, a talent and entertainment agency.


“But not even a scratch.  It was fabulous, the best the Dallas Arboretum has looked in years,” said Pollak, a longtime Dallas area resident and president and founder of the Press Club of North Texas.


Chihuly - Dallas Arboretum

Mexican Hat Tower   


Organizers have noted that the exhibit is undeniably more mesmerizing in the evening hours.  So the Arboretum launched “Chihuly Nights” in an effort to enhance visitor’s experience.


Now, from 6 to 10 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, patrons enjoy the lighted artworks in the evening glow.   Outdoor cafes offer champagne, wine, and snacks to accompany visitors on their art stroll.  


“Remembering the Chihuly blockbuster at the Dallas Museum of Art a few years ago, I could not imagine the beauty of his glass works in a natural setting,” said Tiller.


Rentz said the Arboretum has a long standing tradition of celebrating autumn and Halloween with an enormous display of pumpkins.  Hundreds of pumpkins will grace the gardens not already adorned by glassworks.  The combination of veggie artworks with glass art is expected to attract even more visitors.


Admission to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden increases by $2 for non-members.  Adult member tickets are $12 each.  For non-members tickets are $20 each. Senior member tickets are $10 each. Senior non-members are $15 each.  Member children are $9 each and non-member children are $10 each. 


The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a nonprofit organization supported in part by funds from the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.  Go to: http://www.dallasarboretum.org for more information.  Or call (214) 515-6521. 



Rosie Carbo is the Lifestyles Editor for Wandering Educators 



Chihuly photos were provided courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  Some information on Chihuly was obtained from the Arboretum web site and the artist: chihuly.com