WORTH THE DRIVE: See Chihuly glass artwork illuminated by Christmas lights in Columbus

Art lovers, it’s time to elevate your holiday experience.

Situated on 40 acres on the east side of Franklin Park in Columbus, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens aims to entertain guests of all ages with lush gardens, courtyards, artwork and, during the holiday season, thousands of twinkling lights and elaborate displays. Especially during the winter months, the Franklin Park Conservatory harnesses the magic of the season with its special Chihuly glass artwork exhibition displayed among Christmas lights.

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The Chihuly glass artwork is a part of a permanent collection on display until at least December 2021. And, if you visit during night-time hours this 2020 holiday season through Jan. 10, 2021, you can also enjoy “Conservatory Aglow.” The special event not only includes some of the illuminated Chihuly artwork, but the traditional attractions: poinsettia trees, a rainbow tunnel, gingerbread creations and more.

While at the Conservatory, guests are asked to only bring along members of their immediate households and to wear face masks at all times.

The Chihuly collection

In 2003, artist Dale Chihuly’s vibrant glass artwork was put on display at the Conservatory. “Chihuly at the Conservatory” not only had record-breaking attendance, but it also led to the formation of a non-profit group, Friends of the Conservatory, who came together to purchase most of the pieces within the exhibition to keep as a permanent fixture at the Conservatory.

Because Chihuly artwork is often inspired by nature, the glass pieces are now displayed in the botanical gardens at the Conservatory. Currently, the Conservatory is displaying 19 installations of the Chihuly glass artwork from its collection.

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More about Chihuly

You may remember the Dayton Art Institute’s Chihuly exhibit, “Form From Fire” in 2001. In 2014, the museum hosted “Dayton Celebrates Glass: Chihuly, Littleton, Labino and Beyond.” When you visit the DAI’s permanent glass gallery once it reopens, you’ll see four colorful and representative works by Chihuly and the DAI ‘s Museum Store carries Chihuly Studio Editions.

Chihuly established the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design and co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state. Among his massive site-specific installations have been “Chihuly over Venice” and “Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem” where his contemporary artwork was nestled into ancient archaeological pottery.

It was after a grant study at the Venini glass factory in Italy that Chihuly adopted the practice of working with teams of other glassblowers. When personal injuries after a car crash left him unable to be physically involved in glassblowing, he assumed the role of director, leading teams as large as 18 in creating glass designs.

Chihuly divides his work into different series. “Ikebanas” — another name for Japanese flower arranging — are colorful long-stemmed pieces made with the help of Chihuly’s longtime friend Lino Tagliapietra after a trip to Japan in 1998. His “baskets” are lopsided bowls inspired by the sight of an old Indian basket. The “Anemones” are long, slender finger-like stems that look as though they are floating underwater.

Attempting to use as many color combinations in one series as possible, Chihuly created the “Macchia” (Italian for “spotted”) in 1981. Chihuly “Chandeliers” weigh hundreds of pounds and are not actually chandeliers, but are glass sculptures. His “Persian Ceiling” is composed of hundreds of blown glass forms layered together on plate glass panels. Ask your children if they can find the hidden translucent and gold “putti,” or cherub.

“I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest, they might think it belonged there,” Chihuly has stated.

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Conservatory Aglow

Credit: Franklin Park Conservatory

Credit: Franklin Park Conservatory

Visitors to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus this holiday season will have a sweet surprise in store. This year, the center has been transformed into an outdoor Candyland complete with a life-size gingerbread house.

The outdoor Candyland and winter wonderland will be open to the public daily through Jan. 10, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The conservatory will close to general admission at 4 p.m.

Along with the Candyland scene and magical train display, the Paul Busse Garden Railway, guests can look forward to other familiar favorites, like the rainbow tunnel, ornament trees and more.

The holiday exhibit includes lights displays like the musical light show in the Sunrise Lawn of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden and the Grand Mallway, a path of glowing trees and James Turrell’s “Light Raiment II” that illuminates the historic 1895 John F. Wolfe Palm House.

The 14th Annual Gingerbread Competition display features participants from various categories through Dec. 31. This year, due to the pandemic, everyone can join in on selecting Best in Show, as voting will take place virtually and can be done from the Conservatory or from home.

Before heading to the conservatory, guests must purchase their tickets in advance on the conservatory’s website. General admission tickets are $22, while seniors ($60+) get in for $19 and children (ages 3-12) get in for $12. Adult members psy $11, senior members get in for $9.50 and the younger crowd gets in for $6.


What: Chihuly artwork display and Conservatory Aglow

Where: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus

When: The Chihuly collection is permanently displayed until at least December of 2021. The Conservatory Aglow display will be open from now until Jan. 10 on a daily basis from 5-9 p.m.

Admission: General admission tickets are $22, while seniors ($60+) get in for $19 and children (ages 3-12) get in for $12. Adult members get in for $11, senior members get in for $9.50 and the younger crowd gets in for only $6.

More info: www.fpconservatory.org

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