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Recently, we took a short vacation to the west coast, first visiting my brother in Vancouver, then heading south to Washington state. We took a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula, spent two days driving the loop around its perimeter (hello, rain forests!), then headed back up towards Seattle. On the way, we stopped in Tacoma to visit the Museum of Glass.

After viewing a mind-boggling exhibition of Lino Tagliapetra’s work, we watched a live glass-blowing demonstration in the Hot Shop, then headed toward what had drawn me to the museum in the first place: the Bridge of Glass. I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded beautiful.

The Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot bridge that crosses over Interstate 705, linking the Museum of Glass to the Washington State History Museum and downtown Tacoma. It features three installations by Dale Chihuly, one of the world’s most famous glass artists and a Tacoma native. One of the installations, the Seaform Pavilion, is sensational.

Here we are on the Bridge, and here’s the Pavilion from a distance. It doesn’t look all that impressive.

But as you get closer up, you can see the glass… and it’s in the ceiling.

All of the art is in the 20- by 50-foot ceiling: 2,364 suspended glass objects, to be exact, from Chihuly’s “Seaform” and “Persian” series. The objects are lit during the day by natural light; at night, the artwork is illuminated by fiber-optics. Each compartment holds a separate group of forms, all tumbled together in beautiful displays of artistry. It’s like walking under the most amazing ocean reef you’ve ever seen.

The sculptures are fantastic, resembling jellyfish, sea urchins, tube worms, sea shells and other forms of sea life both real and imagined.

It’s mind-boggling that all of these forms are made of glass. They’re so graceful and fluid, so delicately rendered, ethereal and elegant.

When Chihuly talks about his sea form glass work, he points out that glass is so much like water in its liquidity and transparency that it lends itself naturally to depicting sea shells and sea life. His studio started making these pieces in 1980 and he considers them among his favorite work.

My instinct was to lie down on the pavement and stare at the ceiling, but I managed to restrain myself. Afterwards, I found out that many do end up lying on the ground.

This was the only museum we visited on our trip. The Bridge of Glass is open 24 hours a day and free to the public.

Here’s info on the Museum of Glass if you’d like to see it for yourself. The Hot Shop, where the live glass blowing demonstrations take place, has a live feed here. You can even ask questions and have them answered in real time. Overall, it’s a beautiful museum and definitely worth a stop.

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