The history of glass artwork at the Franklin Park is not as old as the building itself, but seems to have defined the conservatory. The glass house was built in 1895. About one hundred years later the building had a major overhaul and expansion for the AmeriFlora ’92 flower show. A decade later they had their first glass show. As their website states:
“The Conservatory was honored to be the second botanical garden in the world to host an exhibition by glass artist Dale Chihuly in 2003. Chihuly at the Conservatory had record-breaking attendance, and its success led a private, non-profit group, Friends of the Conservatory, to purchase most of the pieces in the exhibition as a permanent collection for the Conservatory. “
In 2009 they started to exhibit a few works of the master glass artist. Ever since the glass has been a part of the landscape, like the plants and water features. Not every piece is shown. While stunning the selections are so well placed that they do not overwhelm from the beauty of the natural exhibits.
The Chihuly: Celebrating Nature exhibit brings out every piece the Conservatory owns and a few on loan from Chihuly. Some of the most famous works have even been configured for the show. For a long time visitor to the conservatory the display is amazing. The gardens come alive with new works. For a first time visitor the works can be quite distracting from the flowers.
The Conservatory is offering later nights most weekends in January and February, and most of March. These are the best times to go. They are only $3 more in addition to the regular admission, but give a whole another experience. Start with a visit to the Hot Shop. Here visitors can see glass art from start to finish in about 60 to 90 minutes, and later even make arrangements to purchase the art when it goes on sale in the gift shop. This is a great way to see how glass is shaped in to beautiful works. Next take a visit through the gardens and see the works. The exhibits are more than just glass and the provided pamphlet is a necessity to see every piece. After seeing the art take another lap to see the plants as the sun sets. The greenhouses are lit mostly by natural light and as the sun goes down the ambiance changes. At night the glass is the only thing lit up. The gardens become a whole different world.
Whether a fan of glass, gardens, or just grand old places the Chihuly: Celebrating Nature exhibit at the Franklin Park conservatory is a must see thing to do.
Tip: Now through March 3rd, 2020 the annual Orchid show will be on. This is a great time to go to the Conservatory.