Donations Roll In For Popular Chihuly

By Jess Bidgood

Jul. 28, 2011

BOSTON — Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts says donations are rolling in after it last weekend began a campaign to get the public’s help in acquiring a piece from its popular Dale Chihuly exhibition.

Dale Chihuly's Lime Green Icicle Tower in the MFA's Shapiro Courtyard. (snlsn/Flickr)

The artist’s whimsical glass sculptures have pulled in a record-setting number of viewers, making the exhibition the fifth-most-viewed show in the museum's history. Now, the MFA hopes to capitalize on that interest by soliciting  donations via text message, collection box and online to help it acquire the 42-foot tall Lime Green Icicle Sculpture that currently towers in the Shapiro Courtyard, just outside the new Art of the Americas wing.

Kim French, the deputy director of communications for the MFA, said museum officials were struck both by the overwhelming interest in the show and by how many viewers used their camera phones to photograph and share the exhibition — and that green sculpture in particular — adding an interactive layer to the show. "I think that really connects people with the art and makes them feel a part of it," French said.

So it seemed appropriate for the MFA to utilize mobile giving, which allows a user to send a text message to a certain number and make a donation through their cell phone bill, for the very first time.

"Not only was that a great item for us to add to the collection, but what a wonderful way for us to ask for the donations through the mobile giving since so many people are using their phones to take pictures in front of the piece," French said.

By Tuesday, the museum had already received about 100 text messages, and collection boxes were filling up.

Aimee Van Zile said via Twitter that she donated Wednesday.

@jessbidgood I did just donate, currently walking through the exhibit!less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

Another Twitter user, @Pinnochia, tweeted about wanting to donate using the hashtag #keepchihuly, but was initially nervous about the idea of donating online.

#KeepChihuly green icicle tower! You can donate by check too!less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

The MFA first sought public donations for an acquisition in the late 1940s, to acquire Paul Revere's Sons of Liberty Bowl. It went to the public again in 1979 for help purchasing Gilbert Stuart's portraits of George and Martha Washington. Both of those pieces are on display in the new Art of the Americas wing.

French says a major donor will match any public contributions. It hopes to raise the full amount for the sculpture — "in the low seven figures," says French — by the end of the year.

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