Atlanta Botanical Gardens
As visitors pass through the gates of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, they are greeted with a jungle of trees, flowers, and endless varieties of other plants. Nestled among the plants rest large glass-blown sculptures. These delicate, vibrantly colored and elaborately designed art pieces are part of the garden’s newest art exhibition, “Chihuly in the Garden.”
The art installation opened to the public earlier this year and will run through Oct. 30. During the day, the exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday. “Chihuly Nights” are open from 6-10 p.m.
“Atlantans have been begging for 12 years for a revival of this showing of Dale Chihuly’s exquisite work, and we are ecstatic to finally welcome Chihuly back,” Garden President and CEO Mary Pat Matheson said in a news statement. “What better way to celebrate our 40th anniversary than to showcase this phenomenal art, which years ago really put us on the map as a cultural attraction.”
Dale Chihuly began glassblowing in 1961, during his time at the University of Washington. His passion soon turned into his signature artwork which is unique to glass art due to its large size. In 1976, Chihuly was blinded in his left eye in a car accident and in 1979 a shoulder dislocation prevented him from holding a glass blowing pipe. Craftsmen are hired to create the art while Chihuly directs them with his artistic vision. His exhibitions have made appearances around the world and permanent collections exist in the United States, England, Singapore and other countries.
The garden, which opened in 1976, previously hosted one of Chihuly’s exhibits in 2004. The sculptures were the garden’s most popular attraction and drew record high membership with attendance reaching 425,000 people. The 2016 addition is proving to be just as successful.
“In 2004, we were a much smaller garden and the exhibition was somewhat smaller ,” Atlanta Botanical Garden Public Relations and Marketing Manager Danny Flanders said. “Twelve years later, Chihuly, and the garden, are far more popular and better known than ever before. We are quite pleased by the attendance increase.”
The exhibit has attracted a broad crowd, many of who truly love Chihuly’s work. Botanical Garden member Amanda Bell-Kirson, who visited the original Chihuly exhibit in 2004, returned to the garden recently to view the new art pieces.
“The 2016 exhibit affected me differently than the 2004 one,” Bell-Kirson said. “The pieces are more dramatic and varied in how they stand with the background of the plants. The vibrancy of the colors and the form and shape are so appealing and attractive to look at.”
The 19 installations of art are spread throughout the garden so that visitors can view the exhibit in almost any area of the grounds. Hanging sculptures are suspended in the entrance and over the canopy walk, while a giant spherical piece stands in a pool of water and purple “reeds” sprout from the woodland floor.
When the garden reopens each night at 6 p.m.,viewers can enter and roam the gardens during “Chihuly Nights.” As the sun sets, the art becomes illuminated and the garden begins to glow with lights from inside the sculptures.
“Chihuly Nights” and cool temperatures have drawn significantly larger evening crowds along with the new Botanical Garden restaurant. “Linton’s” allows night visitors to relax and enjoy a tasty in-garden dining experience as the sculptures light up outside. The restaurant features moderately priced food with high ratings. On the walls hang six of Chihuly’s drawings of his sculptures which were purchased by the garden.
With the popularity of the 2004 and 2016 exhibits,Chihuly’s art has proven to be a successful attraction in Atlanta. Flanders is hopeful for the possibility of another Chihuly exhibit coming to Atlanta in the future.
“Chihuly’s popularity makes him a hot commodity, but anything is possible when you work really hard to make it happen!”