In 2004, shortly after moving back to Georgia, I visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the first time. I was captivated by the stunning glass sculptures prominently featured in the garden, created by renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly. The 2004 exhibition, Chihuly in the Garden, was a huge success, doubling garden attendance that year and significantly increasing garden memberships. Two of the popular glasswork sculptures were purchased by the garden and are on permanent display — Blue and White and Nepenthes Chandelier.
According to Atlanta Botanical Garden President & CEO, Mary Pat Matheson, area residents have been clamoring for a return engagement by Chihuly ever since.
“Atlantans have been begging for 12 years for a revival of this showing of Dale’s exquisite work, and we are ecstatic to finally welcome Chihuly back,” said Ms. Matheson, who indicated the garden expects hundreds of thousands of visitors to attend this time around. “What better way to celebrate our 40th anniversary than to showcase this phenomenal art, which years ago really put us on the map as a cultural attraction.”
Since 2004, Atlanta Botanical Garden has expanded and doubled in size, adding more opportunities for Chihuly’s works of art to be highlighted in various garden settings. This year, 19 installations are featured throughout the grounds; five of them were designed specifically for Atlanta’s urban garden. As an added bonus, the sculptures can be viewed during extended evening hours when the artwork is lit up in eye-popping color! This spectacular encore exhibition continues through October 30.
Dale Chihuly graduated with a degree in Interior Design from the University of Washington. Later he focused on glasswork at the University of Wisconsin and the Rhode Island School of Design and went to work in a glass factory in Venice where he learned the team approach to blowing glass that he uses today. He later opened the renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. His work is on display in over 300 museum collections.
Installing the exhibition was a huge undertaking. Five 53-foot containers were shipped from Chihuly’s studio in Washington to Atlanta, where eleven of Chihuly’s team installed the exhibits over a two-week time frame. Now visitors to the garden can enjoy fine art glass sculptures suspended from the Canopy Walk, floating in the Cascade pools, in the Fuqua Conservatory Orchid Center and beautifully placed among blooming plants in garden vignettes.
One of my favorite pieces is the 30-foot tall Saffron Tower, commanding attention at the Water Mirror Pool in Storza Woods. This new area of garden is part of the recent expansion and is a must-see for those who have not visited the garden in a while. The Sapphire Star beckons visitors toward the conservatory and reflects the vivid blue color in the pool below. Probably the most popular installation is floating in the Cascades Garden pool. Glass orbs in brilliant primary colors are suspended in the water. Earth Goddess, the immense mosaiculture topiary from a previous popular exhibition, Imaginary Worlds, seems to be gazing with awe at the additions to the pool!
Another exciting, new addition to the Atlanta Botanical Garden experience is the fine dining restaurant, Linton’s in the Garden, in partnership with Chef Linton Hopkins. The new, two-level contemporary restaurant offers garden-to-plate dining overlooking the Southern Seasons Garden. Reservations are recommended. If you only want a quick snack, Linton’s also offers a variety of “grab and go” options at The Quick Café. Restaurant hours are Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Garden admission for non-members is required to dine and reservations are recommended. During Chihuly Nights, garden admission is required for both members and non-members.
Chihuly in the Garden at Atlanta Botanical Garden is open Tues: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wed – Sun: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. For more information, visit atlantabg.org.