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Chihuly Nights: Celebrating Cheekwood's 50th anniversary (a look back)

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The Cheekwood mansion and estate are well-known around the country for theirs beautiful displays, both inside and out. Perhaps none of Cheekwood's many presentations has been more breathtaking than Chihuly Nights. As part of Cheekwood's 50th anniversary, the indoor and outdoor artistic glass exhibition Chihuly at Cheekwood and Chihuly Nights took place from May 25 - Oct. 29, 2010 at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville.

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The family fortune of the Cheeks was earned in small part by founding a wholesale grocery business and in large part by investing in a cousin's special blend of coffee, the coffee that became known for the hotel that carried it - the Maxwell House in Nashville. Leslie and Mabel Cheek purchased 100 acres of land to build a country estate in West Nashville, and they moved into their new mansion in Jan. 1933.

In the 1950s the estate was donated as a site for a new botanical garden and art museum. Cheekwood opened to the public as a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum in 1960. Since then Cheekwood has served as one of the artistic and cultural centers of Nashville. As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Cheekwood hosted the unique and colorful Chihuly at Cheekwood and Chihuly Nights exhibit.

Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures explore color, line, and assemblage, and plants and nature are recurring themes in Chihuly's work so the exhibit blended in well with the natural attractions at Cheekwood. Guests were able to take a tour of Cheekwood's living exhibitions by exploring the many gardens on the grounds with an added bonus -- colorful light installations in fabulous shapes artistically arranged among the flowers, plants and herbs. From the blazing golden Saffron Tower and Chihuly Sun to the mystical Mille Fiori, Silver Purple Herons and Blue Marlins, the grounds of Cheekwood became a place of mystery and magic.

Beginning at the Botanic Hall, visitors were greeted by the Saffron Tower and Cattails which caught the light during the day, and glowed brightly with their own light at night. Guests who started their walk at the Cheekwood Mansion and Art Museum were welcomed by Chihuly's Sun. Most of the Cheekwood gardens had at least one installation, but Cheekwood's Reflecting Pool was covered with Chihuly's Mille Fiori upon which the classical statues at each end gazed in placid satisfaction.

Next to Cheekwood's Reflecting Pool lay the Grotto, which was full of Chihuly's peaceful Blue Herons. While admiring the tranquil sight, the guests in my group enjoyed a special sight when a small evergreen tree shaking quite violently. Soon the culprits, two playful raccoons, emerged from the green branches to admire the exotic blue lights, before darting back in for another game of chase. This made the night even more magical -- all kinds of wonders were seen at Chihuly Nights.

Although it was four years ago, Chihuly at Cheekwood is well worth remembering.

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