You usually don't think of art exhibit and blockbuster in the same thought, but that's exactly what Fort Wayne Museum of Art staff hope they have with a Chihuly glass exhibit and two related studio glass exhibits opening Saturday.
“What these shows demonstrate is how far it has come and what can be done,” said Amanda Martin, museum deputy director. Studio glass really began as an art medium in the 1960s, Martin noted.
The show-stopper exhibit, “Works from Dale Chihuly's Collection at Franklin Park Conservatory,” features an array of about 50 smaller works by Chihuly, who is renowned for his large, dramatic art glass. The museum last presented an exhibit of his work in 2002.
“It shows a more minimal side of Chihuly, a spare side,” Martin said of the new exhibit.
The objects on display are from his Macchia, Blue Heron, Red Beluga and Neodymium Reed series, as well as several of his Niijima Floats.
All of the pieces are designed for display with plants in a natural setting, Martin said. Rather than bring in plants, the local museum, with the help of landscape designer Thomas Cain of the city of Fort Wayne, displayed the glass art as if it is the plants in a garden.
Setting up the exhibit has been challenging, said Brian Williamson, the museum's technical director, and Jessie Bower, the technical assistant.
They had to work quickly to make the display stands that will hold much of the glass art, Williamson said.
A staff member from the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio, which owns most of the Chihuly pieces in the exhibit, accompanied the art here and helped place it on the display stands, Williamson said.
The Fort Wayne museum also owns three Macchia pieces — bushel basket-size bowl shapes with fluted edges — that also are included in the exhibit.
“The pieces themselves are not real heavy (30-40 pounds), but they are awkward,” Williamson said.
Tall, slender, bluish pieces titled Blue Herons also sometimes swayed when they tried to set them on the metal rods that hold them up in their displays, Bower said.
“It almost was as if the glass was telling you where it wanted to go,” she said.
They also had to pour 1,400 pounds of white silica sand into the bases of most Chihuly exhibit display stands. They tried a few different looks before settling on a series of small, random mounds made by pouring the sand one small cup at a time, Williamson said.
“This is more of a natural look,” he added.
Two technicians came with art to help install it in the two other exhibits, Williamson said. “The Next Generation of Studio Glass” and “41st Annual International Studio Glass Invitational Award Winners” both came from Habatat Galleries in Royal Oak, Mich.
“Some of the pieces here are extremely heavy,” Williamson said of the “Next Generation” exhibit.
With so many pieces on display, he's also had difficulty maneuvering around it while in the scissors lift they use to focus overhead lighting on the art.
But they'll have it all ready to go in time for the preview party Friday night.