Tacoma takes off

With its stunning new glass museum, Seattle's sister city launches into the future
Steven R. Lorton

As you walk through the doors of Tacoma's new Museum of Glass, you hear a roar. It's coming from the Hot Shop housed in the 90-foot, stainless-steel-sheathed cone that rises above the museum. A row of furnaces burning 2,400° sits at the bottom of an amphitheater―and you, along with 139 other guests, can enjoy the show.

Through the open doors of the furnaces you see a volcanic glow. Two assistants take molten glass from a furnace; a gaffer, the team's creative force, begins to spin it into shape. Beads of sweat roll off the workers' foreheads. You can see it all in detail, thanks to live close-ups of the process projected on a large screen overhead.

If you've ever doubted the maxim that creativity is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, here is proof. And if "Tacoma" and "center for art" strike you as a disconnect, believe it. The rave reviews in the papers are true: the Museum of Glass, which fills 75,000 square feet and cost $48 million to build, lives up to all the hype. What's more, it's just one of the new attractions making Tacoma a real destination.