After graduation, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country at the University of Wisconsin, a program founded by Harvey K. Littleton. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught it for over ten years.
In 1968, Chihuly was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work at the Veninine factory in Venice, Italy. While in Venice, Chihuly observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today. In 1971, Chihuly cofounded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art. His work is included in over 200 museum collections worldwide, he has been the recipient of many awards, including 8 honorary doctorates and 2 fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Sylistically, over the past 40 years, Chihuly’s sculptures in glass have explored color, line and assemblage. His work ranges from the single vessel to indoor-outdoor site-specific installations (Schaumburg main library, for one), and he is best known for his multipart blown compositions. His lielong affinity for glasshouses has grown into a series of exhibitions within botanical settings, enabling the artist to juxtapose monumental, organically shaped sculptural forms with beautiful landscaping, creating a spectacular integration of nature and art.
Nashville’s Lexus Dealership partnered with the Cheekwood Museum, a 55-acre-site endowed by the Maxwell House Coffee Fortune, to use 8,000 glass sculpture pieces from the Chihuly collection in 18 separate locations selected by Chihuly himself.
In addition to day-time viewing ($17 for adults; $12 for students; $12 for seniors), ending at 4:30 p.m., on Thursday and Friday nights the display is open for night-time viewing, with the spectacular pieces lit up.
Chihuly himself resembles an overweight, overaged pirate, complete with an eye patch he needs since an accident in England put him through the windshield of his car. A bodysurfing accident also dislocated his shoulder, causing him to become even more dependent on his team approach.
There was even a lawsuit (settled out of court) against former team members Bryan Rubino and Robert Kaindl in 2006. The first HDTV show shown in this country was “Chihuly Over Venice” in November of 1998 and “Chihuly in the Hotshop” was syndicated to American Public Television on November 1 of 2008.