A Tale of Two Dale Chihuly’s – Part 1

Dale Chihuly’s glass art is magnificent.  I have been fortunate to see two of his blown glass sculptures, each with a different story that inspired me in unexpected ways.

“It happened like this…”

The first Chihuly I saw was at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia.



“Flame of Liberty” 
stands twenty-one feet high.

I was at a wedding in Philadelphia, and the afternoon was free.  As history buffs, hubby and I went to the historic district to see Carpenter’s Hall.  With less than ten minutes before five o’clock when everything closed, we noticed a museum directly across the street, the National Liberty Museum.  It appeared to be an old bank building, so we dashed over and went in.  Thunderstruck would be the exact word to describe how I felt.

The breathtaking structure is mounted on a mirror and rises above, through a circular opening into the second floor.  Visitors can stand below and marvel by looking up, or go to the second floor and look down.  Each perspective gives a different feeling, and the viewer becomes part of the art.  It is more than a visual experience.  I have since returned to the museum to see the Flame of Liberty.

This is only the beginning of what happened.

Before seeing the glass Chihuly, there was a magnificent structure in the foyer.  It was a Peace Portal, a stained glass canopy over carved wrought iron legs.

I couldn’t move.  I stood beneath the canopy, and I knew what I had to do – recreate one in my classroom for the children.  We had been talking about Peace, yet I knew the children needed more, something they could create that would bring Peace to life for them, in their own way.  We painted cardboard tubes that are used for carpeting.  Once we had these black ‘legs’, we glued on all sorts of decorations.  Next we made the canopy.  Each child cut colored cellophane and glued it onto vellum paper.  We attached the papers together with black duct tape to create ‘stained glass’.  Our Peace Portal was ready to be on top of our loft.  The final touch was tiny white lights above the ‘stained glass’ canopy.

It was beautiful!

Children wanted to be there, not so much to play, but to just be.  I paid attention.  I understood.  Perhaps the Peace Portal made them feel the same way I felt when I stood beneath the one at the National Liberty Museum.

I decided to interview children and ask them how it felt, sitting on the loft under the Peace Portal.  Their answers were incredibly honest and surprising.  They felt Peace.  Hunter told me that it made him feel ‘hearty’.  “Oh, it makes you feel strong?” I asked.  “No Jennie” he said with a scowl as I didn’t understand, “It makes me feel ‘heart-y'”.  And he pounded his heart with his fist.  Oh my goodness!

And so, a book about Peace was born, “The Aqua Room Peace Poetry Book.”  We still read it to children to this day.  Was this the end of the story?  Actually it was just the beginning.  The following year, after seeing beautiful Haitian quilts at the Bennington Museum in Vermont, I knew there was more to be done with Peace – designing and making a Peace Quilt.  That is where the story of Milly the Quilter begins, a ten-year journey with children.  That Peace Quilt hangs as a permanent display at the National Liberty Museum.  How fitting!  What goes around comes around, and this was full circle.

Stay tuned for Part 2, reading aloud “The Aqua Room Peace Poetry Book.”

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, museums, Peace, Poetry, preschool, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to A Tale of Two Dale Chihuly’s – Part 1

  1. Ritu says:

    This is amazing!

  2. srbottch says:

    Beautiful project, Jennie. I bet the children were so proud of their creation. Is there a National Museum of Teachers? If there is, you should be in it!

    • Jennie says:

      Haha! Thank you for your kind words, Steve. This was a while ago. I’ve written about Milly and her quilts over a ten year span- this was what started it all. Are you avoiding the ice storms?

      • srbottch says:

        Yes, I knew you were going back to the beginning and I’ve read some of them, including taking your place at the museum. We missed any ice but we’re having cold/snow. I’m tired of winter. But I have been using my snow shoes to make trails for Daisy, our dog. By the way, besides reposting as you suggested, and I’ve done several, I’m finding my way back into writing some new stories. I hope you’ve noticed. ‘The Shovel’ garnered some interesting comments. Hope you’re having a wonderful day, Jennie.

      • Jennie says:

        I’m glad you remember the stories! And glad you missed the ice. And VERY glad you are writing and posting. Yahoo!! Best to you, Steve.

  3. Oh, I love this ❤️

  4. beetleypete says:

    The sculptures are amazing, but taking the idea back to the Aqua Room was inspirational! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. Dan Antion says:

    This is a wonderful story, Jennie. I remember the series of stories about the quilt – that was (and remains) amazing.

  6. I love when adults are inspired by art and life and then expose the children around them to this amazement and inspiration. You didn’t show them a picture or a video, you recreated a moment. I hope that one day some of your students go and find these works of art and feel heart-y again

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Lori! There’s nothing like real, hands-on experiences to teach and inspire children. I do hope they find these works of art one day. I doubt I’ll ever forget ‘heart-y’. Art is so important!

  7. What a wonderful project! So much joy.

  8. K.L. Hale says:

    Jennie, a place of peace. I’d love to sit in your classroom with your students and soak it up. I’ve always been fascinated with glass art. At a nearby theme park I always watch the glass blowers during their demonstrations. And to see such large pieces, like your shares, is absolutely amazing. It reflects such beauty and strength~even in its fragility at the start. You’re an inspiration. 💚

  9. Hold please! I needed to blow my nose and push down the lump in my throat and blink a few times to clear my eyes. WOW!! That was very moving and beautiful, Jennie. In fact, I feel Hearty just like Hunter. 🥰❤

  10. How beautiful and what a wonderful project you turned it into Jennie!❤️

  11. The Monterey Bay Aquarium once house a Chihuly show, smaller than the one you attended, but I had a response that was similar to yours. Sheer awe.

    And I’m so glad that you’ve found a way to engage the kids actively in a peace project. I’ve heard of older kids folding a thousand origami cranes for peace, a la Sadako and 1,000 Paper Cranes, but that’s with an older age group. From the pictures, it looks like the kids were actively engaged and having a great time. : )

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you have been able to see a Chihuly! Sheer awe is a good description. Yes, engaging the younger children in an age appropriate Peace project is difficult. This one just seemed to flow naturally, and the children loved every part of it. Thank you, Cathleen.

  12. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is beautiful! Thank you for this lovely post!

  13. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is a lovely post from Jennie, the excellent teacher!

  14. cathkalcolor says:

    Wow, sometimes we are placed in the exact spot we need to be in at just the right time. What an inspiring piece of work the “Peace Portal” is. You are expanding little minds in a way we all strive to. Thank you, Milly, and your students for such a beautiful story that will live on.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, sometimes we are. I think some things are meant to be. Had I not gone to the museum…well, you know. Thank you, and I will keep trying to expand those little minds. Milly was a gift. The children adored her. She took their designs and made quilts that hang at museums and the Boston State House, and more.

  15. Great story, Jennie. The idea of a peace canopy is the best. I loved heart-y

  16. Jennie, you are just overflowing with great ideas!

  17. Darlene says:

    I have loved Dale Chihuly’s work for a long time. What a great inspiration for the canopy in your classroom. Do you still have it?

    • Jennie says:

      Wonderful that you have seen his work, Darlene. No, I do not have it. IT the end of the school year I had to take it down because school gets ‘transformed’ into summer camp. But, I was able to separate each of the sections of ‘stained glass’ that the children had made and give them back to them.

  18. quiall says:

    Jennie your kids are incredibly lucky that you are someone who thinks outside the box. You are someone who sees beauty and needs to share it so others can see what you see. That is a rare gift.

  19. I’m feeling HEART-y… 💞 Peace and love!

  20. I remember feeling the same as I wandered through his magnificent exhibit in Toronto a few years ago and I can visit one of his pieces minutes away from my West End neighbourhood…how lovely that his work inspired you and your classroom!

  21. sjhigbee says:

    I remember wanting to go and see the exhibition in London, but for some reason or other I wasn’t able to make it… But I would love to see it another time! How inspirational and wonderful that you brought your own sense of wonder into the classroom. And this is something that I think our National Curriculum doesn’t give teachers the flexibility to do so much these days, sadly…

    • Jennie says:

      Good point! I have thought about that often. When I have one of those ah-ha moments, I need to expand on it. Teachers call that ‘emergent curriculum’. I have to make sure I teach the basics, but the pathway should be flexible for teachers. Luckily I teach in a private school, so I have flexibility.

  22. petespringerauthor says:

    What a great project! I love that you took something beautiful and found a way to engage your kids. Just think, someday one of your students will see this in person and remember his/her special teacher. I look forward to reading part 2 soon.

    • Jennie says:

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a child remembered? I loved this project, and it seemed like the natural thing to do. I think you will enjoy the poetry book that I read aloud in Part 2. After that, I write about the second Chihuly.

      On a side note, I have started reading aloud “Because of Winn-Dixie” to my library group. One child asked, “Jennie, when you finish the book will you be reading another Kate DiCamillo book?” Music to my ears!

      • petespringerauthor says:

        I haven’t forgotten about offering to start a group at our library. They’re still closed because of COVID, other than drive-up. Who dreamed that would ever happen at a library?

        What special words from that child! It feels great when we know we’ve connected with the kids over literature.

      • Jennie says:

        I know you will enjoy reading at the library once they reopen. I’m doing my library reading on Zoom. Not ideal, but the children still love it. Yes, it really feels great when we connect with children over literature! My #1.

  23. I’ve seen two Chihuly exhibits in person. He really is an incredible artist. His work is mind-boggling, really. I love your Peace projects with the Aqua Roomers!! I look forward to the poetry!

  24. Pingback: A Tale of Two Dale Chihuly’s – Part 1 – slow

  25. Norah says:

    What beautifuly artwork. But what I love most is how you recreated it with your children.

  26. You have really museums worth a visit. Love your way bringing the art and the deeper meaning to the youngsters. They are definitely high creative. Thank you for sharing. Michael

  27. Interesting story. Thank you Jennie.

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