Arizona ArtBeat: Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden

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Stunning blown-glass installations by artist Dale Chihuly are once again on exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. We’ll take you on a video tour of the exhibit.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" features the stunning blown-glass artwork of Dale Chihuly, on display at the Desert Botanical Garden. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana show us how glass and cacti come together at Papago Park.

Christina Estes: It's called the sapphire star. More than 700 blue to clear spires begin the Chihuly in the Garden exhibit.

Elaine McGinn: The colors are so vibrant. There's no other artist doing what Dale Chihuly is doing.

Christina Estes: What he's doing in Phoenix is generating OOHs, AAHs and questions.

Voice: Do you think it's like this big fish hook?

Christina Estes: Each piece from the chandelier, to the scarlet and yellow icicle tower, is created by a team of glass blowers with final approval coming from Dale Chihuly.

Elaine McGinn: He does probably the most successful artist who exhibits in gardens around the world. But there is nowhere that he has exhibited where he has our plant collection, beautiful lights the desert has, and the wonderful vistas and backdrops. It's just a different space for him to see his work.

Christina Estes: And that's why McGinn says Phoenix is the only garden to host two Chihuly exhibits. The first was in 2008.

Elaine McGinn: We had over half a million people visit the garden in six months, which was a record for us.

Christina Estes: This exhibit features 51 installations spread across 55 acres.

Elaine McGinn: Chihuly's signature in every show I've ever seen, whether it's a fine art museum or garden, is a boat. He's a collector of boats, he collects many, many things, one of the things he's an avid collector of are these antique wooden boats. This dates back to the 1800s. He loves to put what he calls a little fiori a showcase of different shapes and colors of glass into the boat.

Christina Estes: For more than a year, Chihuly and his teamworked with garden staff to pick the best spots., Moving the artwork from Chihuly's studio in Seattle to a canvas in the desert took patience.

Elaine McGinn: The glass came in six tractor trailer trucks over the course of three days. They come in hundreds of boxes, and each box contains pieces of each of the installations. Chihuly sends a team of 12 down to help us through the installation. They actually do the physical installation itself, and it took us about two weeks to get it all installed. The sun was the largest installation. It took the longest to install, about three and a half days, it took a team of five Chihulian. It has 2,000 pieces of glass.

Christina Estes: Some colors and shapes are so striking, you can't miss them. Like these yellow herons.

Elaine McGinn: Very graceful, they're sitting among herbs, so as you're looking at the piece you're also smelling lavender, and thyme, there's a chocolate flower -- it's just this wonderful sensory experience.

Christina Estes: Other pieces blend in so well, you might mistake them for desert plants.

Elaine McGinn: You could stand here for 10 minutes and watch people go right by it.

Christina Estes: But when the sun goes down, McGinn says every piece becomes a star.

Elaine McGinn: At night it's a completely different show. All the sculptures are lit and we have 26 neon panels going up the garden butte we have neon panels, so the garden is glowing at night.

Christina Estes: Keeping all this glass shiny requires the white glove treatment. It takes about 10 hours each week.

Elaine McGinn: The best thing I hear a lot is wow, look at that. I love that. For us, we are about being the garden, and to have visitors come in and they'll say, look at that, and look at that plant. That is really cool. Or I hear often just walking around, I didn't know this place was here, or I didn't know how beautiful the desert could be.

Ted Simons: Next month the desert botanical garden will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The Chihuly exhibit runs through May 18th and advance reservations are recommended.

Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon," it's "The Journalists' Round Table." We discuss the latest from the capitol as the first week of the legislative session comes to a close. "The Journalists' Round Table," Friday on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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