(Photo: A display of Chihuly nights at the Dallas Aboretum, where glass sculptures are lit amidst the gardens of the Dallas Arboretum)     

By Jada Brazell     

Last year, more than 541,000 visitors walked through the The Dallas Arboretum. That’s about 45,000 people a month. In the first month of the Chihuly exhibit, that monthly number more than doubled to 100,000.

“The success of the exhibit is due to both Dale Chihuly’s reputation in the art world and the Dallas Arboretum’s reputation in the garden world,” said Wendy Rentz, Public Relations Manager of the Dallas Arboretum. “Both are nationally and internationally acclaimed.”

Wentz is optimistic that the global attention the exhibit has received will be a game changer for the arboretum. Success didn’t happen overnight, however. Wentz said it took 10 years to procure the exhibit.

Based on the overwhelming reception and visual appeal, the nature-inspired art was well worth the wait. The dramatic glass sculptures situated in more than 15 locations throughout the 66-acre arboretum illuminate the landscape and continues to bring novice and professional photographers out of the woodworks.

Chihuly’s homage to nature has proven a hit in North Texas and proves that local citizens truly do have an affinity for art and the environment. Some works are small in stature, like the lilies, globes and spindly sculptures staggered within reeds. Others pieces stretch as tall as treetops, inspiring awe in onlookers.

“When people see glass they have an opinion,” said Chihuly in a mini-feature airing at the arboretum. In it he goes on to explain that while many types of art are difficult to connect to for some, glass tends to be relatable.

Chihuly draws his inspiration from nature. He first visualized the round “floats” sitting atop ponds. Persian lilies came later, he said. “The pond really is just the perfect environment for them.”

The Sonoran Desert speaks to Chihuly as well, moving him to design pieces that blend well with age-old cacti.

While Chihuly once was the “gaffer,” or master of each project, the scope of his work has grown so large that he directs a creative crew, who he says interpret the emotional and conceptual direction he provides. He said his role in managing the process also allows him to remain in a creative mindframe.

The artist has been working in glass since 1965, as part of the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. To date, his work is included in more than 200 museums worldwide. He began showing in botanical settings in 2001.

His spectacular, large scale, freestanding sculptures can be seen at the arboretum every day from 9-5. The Dallas Arboretum also opens the exhibit from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for “Chihuly Nights.” Concerts are held on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The glass is magnificently lit at night, while the sun illuminates the sculptures’ natural look during the daytime. The exhibit is worth a visit any time of day, as its qualities change with the position of the sun. Prices vary by age and time of day, so please check http://www.dallasarboretum.org/index.htm for more information.

Jada Brazell is a freelance writer who also consults for fashion- and art-based businesses on branding. She has written for the Odessa American and Global Fashion News, edited for the Texas Senate and RadioShack, and contributed to several magazines and newspapers in Central and South Texas.