Twelve days and counting: That's all the time you have left to catch the Museum of Fine Arts' Chihuly exhibit, your best chance of getting kids and art together this summer.
Yes, you still can't touch, and virtually everything in this celebration of glass is breakable. (Don't even bother with the nightmare of trying to figure out how you'd pay for that mishap.)
But for sheer, entertaining dazzle, this colorful, 3-D experience is the most kid-friendly opportunity in town to inspire some creativity and learn about an accomplished living artist – and there is nothing like it on the museum horizon.
Encouraging families to see "Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass" and calling it "kid-friendly" may fuel its detractors and their dismissive position toward art that can appeal so broadly. I'm not going to be the one to defend the work as intellectually challenging; my plebian taste extends to visits to the paint store, where a mosaic of little samples alone can entertain me. (Well, that used to be fun, until I spent hours choosing all the colors for our apartment plus every hallway in our building. Now I need a break.)
But unlike "Olivia" the pig, of picture book fame, who takes one look at a Jackson Pollock and says, Mommy, "I could do that in about five minutes," then proceeds to try it on her walls at home – your child will not be able to attempt reproducing blown glass. So you might as well introduce him or her to some beautiful examples of it.
Glass artist Dale Chihuly – partly schooled and once an educator at the Rhode Island School of Design – was inspired to create the 12 installations, composed of thousands of individual pieces, after visiting the MFA two years ago while the new Art of the Americas Wing was still under construction. While many of the works have been shown before, some of the pieces were created by Chihuly's team in his Seattle studio especially for the MFA exhibit.
Chihuly exhibits widely, and his works are in galleries and permanent museum collections around the world. This is not one of those museum experiences that is about seeing what's ancient and rare. But for no other reason, your children should see the Chihuly show because to miss it is to miss something so many others have seen and enjoyed.
The show is the MFA's first blockbuster in its eight-month-old new wing: "Through the Looking Glass" is already the fifth-best-attended exhibit in its history, with some 320,000 visitors. In another first, the MFA recently launched a mobile giving campaign, to acquire Chihuly's imposing 42-foot Lime Green Icicle Tower and keep it permanently when the exhibit closes August 8 (Text TOWER to 50555 to donate $10).
I just measured my preschooler's arm, and at just about 15 inches long, I remember she could almost touch one of the vases on the day she saw the show. It made me want to tuck that precious glass a bit farther back on the table, like trying to prevent spilled milk at dinner. Trying to rein in my kids' enthusiasm for the room-filling, 58-foot long "Mille Fiori" when they nearly broke into a trot (see "nightmare," above) made me look around for a security guard and almost wish one would tag my children for a little lecture about being more careful. But with visitors snapping cell phone photos everywhere, taking the classic tourist pose and looking up at all the work hanging high, things are rather relaxed at Chihuly's exhibit.
Normally, photography of art on loan in the MFA's temporary exhibits is not allowed, but here the artist removed that air of protection and exclusivity; he's given permission and taking pictures is fine. It's a lovely atmosphere in which to experience some visual treats for summer.