Glass artist Chihuly will bring his “most ambitious” exhibition to the Missouri Botanical Garden
Officials announced Wednesday that world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly will bring his whimsical and colorful works to the Missouri Botanical Garden this spring for the garden’s “most ambitious” exhibition ever.
Chihuly and his crew have created 18 installations that will add even more dramatic color across the park’s 79 acres. The exhibit will be larger than Chihuly’s only previous exhibit in the park, in 2006, and most of it is located inside the Climatron.
“It’s hard to put into words the wow factor,” said park chief Peter Wise Jackson. “But I would reassure people that they won’t be disappointed in coming to the garden and seeing a lot of the pieces on display, the kinds of pieces they’ve never seen before.”
exhibition,”Kelly in the Garden 2023Opens May 2nd through October 15th.
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Chihuly Nights tickets will go on sale March 1 for park members and March 15 for the general public. Daytime admission will be included with park admission.
The Chihuly Studio’s craftsmen and planners visited the park three times to draw up and finalize plans, and only a small group of park employees knew about the exhibit until very recently. Park officials said Chihuly himself wants to visit, but no date has been set. The park is located at 4344 Shaw Boulevard.
Glass installations will be spread throughout the garden, including inside Linnean House, the Japanese Garden, the Conservatory, and the Climatron, where a massive 928-piece blue chandelier from the 2006 exhibition hangs from the top of the dome. A display of Chihuly’s drawings will be on display at the park’s Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum.
In 2006 Chihuly’s exhibition “Glass in the Garden” made a huge impression and changed the lineup of future garden events. Revenue from gift shops, rentals, tickets and restaurants increased by 30%. The park extended the exhibit by two months through the end of that year, and even heated a reflecting pool so more people could see the Walla Walla float glass during freezing weather.
The fair attracted thousands of new members and broke attendance records, breaking the one million visitor mark that year. The park has since reached the million mark, but the pandemic has pushed those numbers down.
Park officials hope Chihuly will once again be the catalyst to attract new visitors and those who haven’t trekked the parks’ trails for a while.
“Chihuly Nights” in 2006 was the genesis of future audience favorites, such as Holiday Garden Glow and Chinese Lantern Fairs. The staff learned how to handle the night crowds, and the crowd knew they loved the garden’s glowing atmosphere.
In 2006, visitors from all 50 states came to see Glass in the Garden. Security officers wrote down license plates in the parking lot. Park officials hope the new exhibit will attract tourists again, who will not only spend their money at the park, but elsewhere in St. Louis.
The park’s Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center opened in August, and the adjacent Bayer Event Center is scheduled to open in May. More than 30,000 plants, flowers and trees will be planted in new garden beds in the coming months.
“This really marks a great year to develop a new era of the park and build on what we’ve accomplished here,” said Wes Jackson.
It’s also the celebration of what he hopes will be the end of the pandemic. “It’s a way that we can give back to the community, that we can say we’re here, come back and enjoy the garden.”
The park will not host a summer fair in 2022 due to construction. Park officials have been in contact with Chihuly Studio over the years, and in 2019 put together a final plan for this exhibit.
Park officials won’t say how much it will cost — “a lot,” said public relations consultant Peggy Lints — and the money is budgeted for, along with the help of a sponsor. Lilia and David Farr are presenting sponsors, and other major sponsors include Edward Jones and Schnuck Markets Inc. With Scott Schnuck.
From the exhibition in 2006, donors purchased many of Chihuly’s works for the garden’s permanent collection: among them are the floating onion, the blue chandelier that was moved to the Climatron in 2021 due to the new visitor center, and the yellow sculptures that top the trellises in the rose garden.
Although there is no budget or plan to purchase new lots, the officials are open to any generous donor who wants to buy one lot—or more—for the park.
While the show in 2006 changed the landscape of the park, it also planted a new trail for Chihuly. One of his first exhibitions was in a botanical garden; He has held exhibitions in a dozen or so gardens since then.
“The Missouri Botanical Garden is a special place for Chihuly Studios,” said Catherine Martin, a garden spokeswoman. “It was so successful that it really gave them a road map for the shows they did going forward.”
Wise Jackson was working in Dublin in 2006, so he hasn’t seen the exhibit here but has seen Chihuly’s exhibits in other parks and knows they are among the most popular. “It has certainly brought new audiences to many botanical gardens,” he said.
In 2006, Chihuly told the Post-Dispatch that he was particularly excited to put his work on the Climatron, another all-glass structure.
He said, “The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the great historic gardens in the world, and I am honored to do a project there.”