Children's Museum of Indianapolis and Dale Chihuly Fireworks of Glass Exhibit
3000 N. Meridian, Indianapolis, IN
(317) 344-3322

Rosie, PlazaQueen, PandaCat, YaleMA, Thing1, and Thing 2

Indianapolis is not too far from our old stomping grounds and we were in the old neighborhood for a family gathering and celebration. Once the festivities were over, it was time to meet up with old friends and catch up on old times and current doings. This is not as simple as it sounds when both parties have kids who are on summer vacation and want to do fun stuff.

The great thing about going to a children's museum is that while many of the exhibits and programs are geared toward youngsters, there are plenty of things to capture the interest of more mature visitors. We have been to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis many times and have enjoyed seeing the giant 26-foot tall water clock in the lobby, ridden the vintage carousel up on the fifth floor, taken a whirlwind tour with the Passport to the World exhibit, and admired a huge collection of working model trains and doll houses as well as learning about natural environments and physical sciences in the hands-on Science Works hall.

We visited all of those exhibits again on this occasion, but our primary reason for visiting the museum this time was to see the Dale Chihuly Fireworks of Glass exhibit and the museum's new permanent eponymous centerpiece glass sculpture. Chihuly is a Seattle-based glass artist whose work has been exhibited all over the world. After receiving an extremely generous donation, the museum commissioned Chihuly to create a gigantic glass sculpture which would become a permanent centerpiece in its 4-story tall central tower. Open-sided ramps taking visitors to each level of the museum afford a 360-degree and top-to-bottom view of the entire colorful sculpture which does indeed evoke fireworks. The sculpture was unveiled at a gala celebration in May and has been drawing thousands of visitors ever since.

The tower sites atop a specially constructed glass ceiling which contains over 1600 additional pieces of glass which bend and color light to create a dazzling display viewed from underneath the tall, frothy sculpture. This rainbow of light and color serves as the ceiling of an exhibit created especially for children. There are three spiky bases which hold colorful plastic replicas of the glass pieces that make up the sculpture above. Children are invited to create their own sculptures on these bases and parents can sit back and enjoy their creativity. A circular and rotating platform is a perfect place to sit and gaze at the glass ceiling while the youngsters play with a couple of interactive video displays about the glass blowing process. The SpaceQuest Planetarium right next to this lower level showed an 18 minute film about the process of creating the sculpture, in which Chihuly introduced his team of glass artists. It took what seemed like a dozen people to create the glass pieces and the frame, and the entire team traveled to Indianapolis to assemble the masterpiece.

Another exhibit hall featured a large glass Chihuly sculpture-display called Undersea Garden. The fiery reds, yellows and oranges of the Fireworks were replaced by cool blues, greens, and purples. One could almost see beautiful tropical fish swimming through this lovely oasis.

Display cases in the walls around the hall contained drawings by local school children which were turned unto glass sculptures by Chihuly's team of glass artists and displayed with the inspiration drawing. What a treat it must've been for the kids to not only have their drawings chosen for this exhibit, but to see their works in colorful glass in three dimensions!

Glass is a fascinating medium and we have seen many forms of glass art both here and in other places. The Undersea Garden will not be there the next time we go back to the Indianapolis Children's Museum, but Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass sculpture will be and we will climb that four story ramp admiring it from all sides for years to come. When you go to Indianapolis, make a point of going to the Children's Museum, not only for Chihuly's masterpiece, but for all the other treasures for children of all ages.

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