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.
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.”