By Loralee Leavitt
“Wow,” breathes a 12-year-old boy, walking into the Northwest Room at Chihuly Garden and Glass. He points at the brightly patterned Pendleton blankets on one wall, the shelves of glassy bowls nestled in front of their Native basket inspirations, the wall of Native faces, and the giant glass shapes mounted on a wide wooden slab. “Seeing it all together ...” He trails away, struggling for words, before he explains: “I’m really into art.”
Children who love art, color and imagination will find much to enjoy in the newly-opened Chihuly Garden and Glass museum at the Seattle Center. The spires in the neon Glass Forest, whose narrow shapes were produced by dropping molten glass off of stepladders, made my four-year-old think of the Space Needle. Chihuly selected the tower in the Sealife Room knowing that children would enjoy finding the golden glass shells and sea stars nestled among its blue tendrils.
Parents of grabby children will sigh with relief entering the brightly-lit Persian Ceiling room, where all the glass is contained safely overhead, and where nine chubby cherubs nestled among colorful glass bowls and shells make a fun game of hide-and-seek. Chiluly’s childhood love for gardens inspired Mille Fiore, a glowing glass garden with blue spires stretching long heron necks and black “seal pups” crawling through the greenery.
Exhausted families can collapse on the floor in the Glasshouse, a giant conservatory with vines of orange glass flowers twining overhead. Children also have more freedom walking through the garden, where flowers of every hue echo the colors of the interspersed glass spires and sculptures. Look for shining spheres that reflect the Space Needle.
While parents might worry about taking children into a museum of breakable art, the exhibit has worked hard to become kid-friendly. Their Kids Guide is more informative and interesting than its adult counterpart. My four-year-old loved matching the exhibits with the brochure photos, while my six-year-old meticulously filled the brochure with his own drawings.
Glassworkers from Chihuly’s studio, or Exhibition Hosts, give presentations on the exhibits, and carry pieces of glass for children to touch. Check the schedule for their demonstrations, or ask a guard to call one of the Hosts to come answer your questions. A kids audio guide will be produced soon.
With tickets $12 for children and $15 for King County residents (bring an ID to get the discount), families will have to decide whether visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass is worth the price. If you go, make sure to use the restrooms at the entrance, since there are none in the Exhibition Hall, and you might be there longer than you think.
Our children kept finding one more thing to show us: a red-shaded glass basket, an onion-shape in the Ikebana rowboat, or a ruby-colored tower with tendrils that looked ready to reach down and grab us. As my nine-year-old concluded, “There’s too many pretty things here.”
If you go . . .
Where: Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle Center
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.– 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices: $19 for adults ($15 for King County residents); $12 ages 4-12; ages 3 and under, free. An added $5.25 is charged per online transaction. You can also buy a combined Chihuly/Space Needle pass.
Tickets: Buy online
As a mother of three and the creator of candyexperiments.com, Loralee Leavitt loves exploring with her children. Her book, Candy Experiments, will be published in January 2013. The photos were taken by Laramie Leavitt.