Building THE ELLIE LOBBY MAIN HALL OTHER SPACES OPENING NIGHT The STARS MOVERS & SHAKERS CARMEN
Opera Colorado
The ELLIE CAULKINS OPERA HOUSE: a CHIHULY for THE ELLIE

The Making of The Ellie

BUILDING THE ELLIE:
The Quigg Newton Auditorium
Design
Construction

The Lobby
The Chihuly

The Main Hall

OTHER SPACES:
Dressing Rooms
Chambers Grant Salon
The Performing Arts Complex





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"Imagine turning sand, the cheapest substance in the world, into that.
If that isn't alchemy, I don't know what is."

- Dale Chihuly,
artist
(from an article by Jay Dawson © 2000 Gulfshore Life)


"During the 1% for art selection, we looked at a CHIHULY, and we couldn't really afford it. Then Jeremy Shamos phoned me one day and said, 'Would you like a Chihuly' I said, ABSOLUTELY!"

"And then I was nervous because, you know, they can be colored very dramatically. Then he brought me some photographs. It looked absolutely perfect, with its golds and greens that would fit in beautifully."


- Peter Lucking,
lead architect

WHAT, one might ask, IS A CHIHULY?

If you followed the studio-glass movement that began in the 1960s, you're probably surprised that the question is even being asked. You'd assume that by now it's a matter of general knowledge that DALE CHIHULY, the artist whose medium is glass and who made Seattle (his home base) a world capital for glass art second only to Murano in Venice, is the man who elevated glassblowing from craft to fine art. And chandeliers are but one of the many manifestations of his art. Once one sees a Chihuly chandelier, he or she will never think of chandeliers in the usual way again.

As anyone can see, the chandelier that hangs medusa-like in the main lobby of The Ellie is no mere light fixture. It is a work of art, a one-of-a-kind glass sculpture that illuminates special spaces. Certainly, it is a conversation piece. This chandelier puts The Ellie in the privileged company of over 200 major art museums and art galleries in America and the rest of the world which count Chihuly art pieces and installations in their treasured collections.


So, if the city could not afford the CHIHULY, how then did THE ELLIE get one?


The Chihuly chandelier is a joint gift to the City of Denver (which owns and operates The Ellie and all the theaters of the Denver Perfomjng Arts Complex) from Susan and Jeremy Shamos (Co-Chairs of Opera Colorado's Board of Directors) and Debi (also a Board Director) and Jerry Tepper.

Actually the chandelier was not commissioned specifically for The Ellie. There was no money in the budget for a Chihuly chandelier, which could cost up to $500K by the time it is installed. But it so happened that in the spring of 2005, there was a Chihuly art show in nearby Colorado Springs, where one particular chandelier caught Jeremy Shamos' fancy. Jeremy and Susan Shamos, who over the years of collecting Chihuly art pieces had come to know Dale Chihuly and his chief installer, were invited to see the show before it opened. Here's Mr. Shamos' story of the Chihuly for The Ellie (excerpted from a phone interview with FanFaire):

"I went down and saw the show. They had several chandeliers, and I must say I really, really liked this one in particular. Denver has a wonderful program called 1% for art - 1% of the budget of any public building that goes up with public money must be spent on art work on the site. I was a member of the commitee that was choosing the art for the renovated auditorium. Chihuly made a presentation but was not the successful person, but really came in a very close second. So I know that the group really liked Chihuly, but the city couldn't afford it because they had bought some other pieces.

"When June came around and Susan and I saw how really beautiful the opera house was going to be, we contacted another couple - Debi Tepper is on the Board of Opera Colorado, and she and her husband are old friends of ours. We had heard that they had wanted to make an artistic contribution to the opera house, so we invited them to come down to Colorado Springs with us to look at the chandelier, which they did. And it happened - not entirely by coincidence - that Dale Chihuly was going to be there when they came down. So, they met him and he was charming and by the end of the day, they had agreed to split the cost of the chandelier with us.

" And we gave it to the city. I just think it's perfect for the spot.... I love the idea of Dale Chihuly's work - his public work looks particularly good in an opera house."

"What makes the chandeliers work for me is the massing of color. If you take up to thousands of blown pieces of one color, put them together, and then shoot light through them, now that's going to be something to look at. Now you hang it in space and it becomes mysterious, defying gravity or seemingly out of place. Something you have never seen before." - Dale Chihuly

Which is the way the chandelier is, and will always be, at The Ellie.


Photo credits: Semple Brown Design, FanFaire

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