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The Fort Wayne Museum of Art will display renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work in an upcoming exhibit called “Secret Garden.”

Chihuly glass art back at museum

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art will once again feature glass pieces by sculpture artist Dale Chihuly in the exhibit “Secret Garden” beginning June 29.

The 50 garden glass pieces, on loan from the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, were originally designed to challenge whether glass art can only be admired in a traditional gallery setting.

“The aesthetic is not quite as pristine as it is in a gallery because it’s going to get dust and it’s going to get pollen – it’s so gutsy. Not many people can pull it off,” museum Executive Director Charles Shepard says.

The exhibit will be in conjunction with two other glass exhibits, “The Chihuly Effect: Pushing the Boundaries of Studio Glass” and “Habatat Presents: 41st International Glass Invitational,” in collaboration with Habatat Gallery in Royal Oak, Mich.

It has been 11 years since Chihuly’s last exhibit, “Dale Chihuly: The George Stroemple Collection,” was at the Fort Wayne museum. Shepard says that for the past two to three years, he has been thinking of ways to reintroduce the artist back into the gallery with a set of different works. He says through research he found the Franklin Park Conservatory’s “Chihuly at the Conservatory” exhibit that displays garden glass pieces among foliage.

“A lot of the pieces in the ‘Stroemple Collection’ were very complicated and very frilly,” Shepard says. “Chihuly has been saying in the past few years that he would like to get out of the stereotypes and create more simple forms. When I looked at the Franklin Park website, I noticed that the pieces were more straight-forward.”

With more than 150 glass pieces, some weighing 200 pounds or more, being displayed in the three concurring exhibits, Shepard’s “biggest panic” now is being able to design and provide bases for all of the fragile pieces at the Fort Wayne museum. With the pieces insured and specialized glass handlers staffed, Shepard says the museum will use a hydraulic lift that will set glass pieces onto bases.

As the museum transfers the outside pieces indoors, Shepard says it’s particularly important that Chihuly’s work is displayed in a way that transcends the literal use of a garden.

“In the past 15 years, Chihuly has appeared everywhere. You don’t want it to look like any other show,” Shepard says.

He says the museum’s design team has settled on two possible display options for the exhibit – one would be a raked sand or stone zen-like garden with the pieces placed throughout the garden, or a garden that contrasts nature with urban life. Instead of the pieces resting on a zen stone bed, it would be placed on a pile of deconstructed bricks.

“One idea is sweet and elegant and the other idea is gritty,” he says. “Whichever way we go with, you’ll never see anything like it before.”