For serious fans of fresh cannabis flower—and yes, that includes us!—the word “glass” can only mean one thing. But in today’s celebration of All Things Tacoma, we’re going to go “beyond the bong” and share the inside scoop on another kind of glass: The kind preserved at one of the city’s most fantastic and well-loved attractions, the Tacoma Museum of Glass.
Since opening its doors in 2002, the Museum has become perhaps the most instantly recognizable feature of the Tacoma waterfront. These days, over 100,000 guests visit the Museum each and every year, securing its place in the pantheon of historic Tacoma sites.
What’s the story behind the Museum, and what will you find there? Read on; we promise you full transparency.
Tacoma Museum of Glass: Celebrating One of the Pacific Northwest’s Great Art Forms
The idea for the Museum is a perfect example of the “right idea at the right time.” In 1992, the University of Puget Sound’s recently retired president, Dr. Philip M. Phibbs, suggested the idea of a museum honoring the region’s deep history in glassblowing and manufacture to the Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma.
At the time, the Executive Council was pondering plans to redevelop the Thea Foss Waterway, a former Superfund site. Securing the cooperation of noted glass artist Dale Chihuly, construction on the architecturally striking site began in June of 2000. In addition to being a sprawling gallery space—spanning some 75,000 square feet in all—the Museum’s most distinctive feature is a “hot shop,” where glass is produced. Shaped into an angled cone based on the wooden "beehive burners" of the old sawmills that once populated the waterway, it’s composed of 2,800 diamond-shaped stainless steel panels, and is 100 feet in diameter at its base.
Tacoma Museum of Glass: Visiting and Permanent Exhibits
In addition to being a notable landmark in and of itself, the Tacoma Museum of Glass features a stunning collection of the glassblower’s art. Whether you’re a fan of ancient and traditional glass forms, modern and forward-thinking idioms—or even if you’ve never given a second thought to glasswork!—it’s a safe bet you’ll be awed by the breadth of art on display. From Dale Chihuly’s own distinctive works—many inspired by the endless variety of forms found in nature—to work by indigenous artists working in their native styles, to incredible and mind-bending pieces of art that challenge the very notion of what glass is, you’d be hard-pressed to visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass and come away unimpressed.
Like any good community institution, the Museum hosts special events, artist presentations, and special guest days. Whether you’re a lifelong Tacoman or just passing through, we strongly urge you to take advantage of one of the city’s most unusual, distinctive, and memorable exhibitions!
And for more functional glass art, don't forget to stop by your favorite Tacoma dispensary! We carry gorgeous glass that will help make every session special.