Chihuly gifts GSA iconic Tacoma Union Station art
In a sweeping gesture of generosity, and an eye toward honoring Dale Chihuly’s hometown, he and his wife Leslie formally gifted five art installations inside the Tacoma Union Station building to the U.S. General Services Administration in a January 25 ceremony.
The majestic Tacoma Union Station stands as the premier architectural treasure of downtown Tacoma, and in most eyes, serves as the soul of the city. The building’s stately copper-clad dome atop a Beaux Arts base beckons passersby to peek inside. If they do, as their eyes travel up the soaring ninety foot ceiling they will be mesmerized by a fantastical jumble of color and texture; a Dale Chihuly masterpiece soaring toward the skylit dome’s oculus. The 20-plus-foot, multi-color “End of Day” chandelier features thousands of brightly colored bulbs, each individually crafted to dip, swirl and play amid Tacoma’s “Parthenon.” Four other equally stunning Chihuly installations decorate the sweeping windows and halls of Tacoma’s jewel.
As the steward of the Tacoma Union Station, GSA has long-enjoyed the artwork featured in the stunning public space.
GSA Acting PBS Regional Commissioner Lisa Pearson opened the ceremony with reflections about how Chihuly’s art first inspired her as a young woman in Chicago, and noted how her appreciation continued to bloom when she moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland lauded Chihuly’s generous contributions to Tacoma commenting that, “When we think of people we can call a native son, Dale Chihuly is our first.”
Leslie Chihuly, president and CEO of Chihuly Studios, remarked about what it might have been like for a hometown boy to imagine displaying his art in this “beautiful building.” She added that, “It has been a special pleasure to be able to make this gift to GSA and the people of the United States.” Dale Chihuly followed her by dedicating the building's artistic treasures to his Mother (Viola), Father (George) and Brother (George).
The art works include:
- Center rotunda under skylight - “End of Day" chandelier
- North wall - “Basket Drawing Wall”
- Upper Pacific Avenue window - “Water Reeds”
- Upper south mezzanine - “Lackawanna Ikebana”
- East window - “Monarch Window”
To learn more about the art installations in Chihuly's own words watch the video “Chihuly at Union Station.”
In 1987, with a congressionally approved 35-year lease, GSA rescued the crumbling Tacoma Union Station from the wrecking ball, beginning a complete restoration of not only the building, but the very fabric of the city. In 1992 the building became home to the The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington. When the building’s lease expires in 2022, GSA will buy the building, where the Chihuly artwork will reside in perpetuity as part of the National Fine Arts Collection.