Did you know that Seattle’s little sister to the south, Tacoma, offers rock candy towers, a space ship-like building, and 24-foot wooden woman?
The port-side town is often overshadowed by its Emerald City neighbour to the north. But while Seattle may lure visitors to stare skyward at the futuristic Space Needle, get lost in the labyrinthine Public Market, and chow down at its many eateries, Tacoma can hold its own, especially when it comes to art.
And in a two-hour visit en route to Oregon, Tacoma tantalized enough to make it a must-see stop on my next trek south. Here are seven snapshots showcasing some of of Tacoma’s artful gems.
1. Shaun Peterson’s Qwalsius (Welcome Figure)
The totem pole commands attention, rising 24 feet, its cedar arms outstretched. A plaque includes a quote from the artist: “The welcome figure symbolized many things: honor to the past, present, and future as we are the ancestors of a future generation and must carry ourselves forward with that in mind.”
The painted totem has been carved using a traditional adze method, which gives it its rough texture.
2. Word play
Nearby, a row of steps surrounding a plaza forms the staging ground for some word play. The interactive artwork allows passersby to move around words and their own random poetry and messages.
3. Tacoma’s Museum of Glass (MOG)
The futurist building looks a rocket ship ready to jet into space. It adds to the alluring architecture that’s seen nearby: Union Station, the Tacoma Dome, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Shallow steps curve around the metal-clad dome, leading upwards to vantages of the city.
4. Chihuly Bridge of Glass
At the top of the MOG’s cone? The stunning Chihuly Bridge of Glass (open to the public, day and night), named for the celebrated native Tacoma glassblower. The Venetian Wall features installations of impossibly intricate vases that almost look alive.
5. Rock candy
They may look like those chunky rock candy sticks or shards of ice, but the twin pillars that frame the pedestrian walkway are, of course, created from glass.
6. Seaform Pavilion
The Seaform Pavilion places undersea objects (2,364 of them!) up above, reminiscent of Chihuly’s installation in the ceiling of the lobby of Las Vegas’s Bellagio hotel.
7. Snack time
Early morning, late afternoon … anytime is ideal to stop for a snack at one of Tacoma’s cute cafes, like Hello, Cupcake, on Pacific Avenue. Φ