hoto by Scott Mitchell Leen
Summer Sun, 2010. Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Nashville, installed 2020.

The Sun is rising in St. Louis this year and is sure to be a big hit.

That's because the Missouri Botanical Garden is hosting an exhibit of world-famous artist Dale Chihuly's blown glass sculptures, including "Sun" in the day lily area.

"It is a large yellow and red sculpture with hundreds of pieces of glass that make up a beautiful sun," says MOBOT spokesperson Catherine Martin. "It's going to be very striking and large." And popular – so get your tickets early. They went on sale to the public March 15.

"Sun" joins 17 other major blown glass installations on display throughout the garden from May 2-Oct. 15. Each piece is being made expressly for St. Louis. Chihuly's studio and MOBOT officials together decided where the pieces will go.

Chihuly, a Washington state-based artist, is well known for his creative and colorful blown glass pieces. His work is shown in more than 200 museum collections around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He has installed artwork in the Royal Botanic Gardens in London and a garden in Singapore, among others.

This isn't the first time Chihuly has brought his work to St. Louis. One of his earliest collaborations with botanical gardens happened there in 2006. Visitors may have seen several pieces purchased from that exhibit, such as a glass chandelier and a few glass reeds in the geodesic dome known as the Climatron. In warmer weather, garden workers install glass "onions" in pools in front of the Climatron and other sculptures in the rose gardens.

That 2006 show was popular for the garden and for Chihuly, Martin says. "We've been having conversations the last few years with his studios and, with the opening of our new visitors center last August, we thought this exhibit would be a good way to celebrate its opening."

Another sure-to-be-noticed piece is a sculpture of a boat filled with glass balls that look like giant marbles, to be installed in the Japanese garden. A similar piece is on display at the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition space in Seattle. 

Each of the 18 major pieces contains hundreds of pieces of glass, Martin notes. She says some of them could become permanent additions to the garden if bought and donated. Several individuals and companies are sponsoring the 2023 exhibit.

A special experience for visitors will be Chihuly Nights, which will allow attendees to see the sculptures lighted at night, enjoy live music and other entertainment and buy food and drinks. "We're expecting this to be a big draw," Martin says. An extra fee will be charged above the regular garden admission for the night events. Chihuly Nights run 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sunday from May 13 to Aug. 27.

Daytime visitors will pay only the regular garden admission of $14 for adults, with children under 13 admitted free. The garden is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Parking is free.

In addition to the Chihuly exhibit, visitors can wander through the 79 acres to see Japanese, English woodland, boxwood, Victorian, Bavarian, rose, rock and sensory gardens. Several indoor conservatories showcase various types of plants, and the new visitors center offers food, gifts and information about MOBOT's mission. 

Founded in 1859, the garden is a National Historic Landmark and one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States. 

Mary Bohlen of Springfield writes travel articles for Illinois Times and enjoys visiting gardens more than weeding them.

Mary Bohlen

Mary Bohlen is a retired journalism professor who is a regular contributor to Illinois Times. She specializes in writing about interesting places in Illinois and nearby states worthy of day or weekend trips.

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