Driving by the big white cube of a building on US 1 in Dania, you may wonder why there is a dinosaur fossil embedded in it. The building has a few names – The Gallery of Amazing Things houses The Wiener Museum of Decorative Arts (WMODA) on the second floor. The dino is left over from a previous incarnation of natural wonders.
It’s a real hidden gem, a museum that celebrates the fired arts of ceramics and glass along with some metal art and community connection. Dania used to be known as a small-town stop on the way to Ft. Lauderdale, US 1 loaded with small antique shops. A recent building boom finds hotels, upscale restaurants, and now a revamped museum that features thousands of works from the world’s most renowned ceramic and glass artists.
A vast collection of 19th and 20th-century British pottery and porcelain from Wedgwood and Royal Doulton, the Wiener Museum also displays works by contemporary ceramic artists. A spectacular collection of Dale Chihuly’s work, glowing like sea creatures, is exhibited in the Hot Glass gallery along with other great glass artists in the Art on Fire exhibit, including William Morris and Toots Zynsky.
A new show highlights the four classical elements of EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER that are the fundamental building blocks of nature. EARTH in the form of sand merges with FIRE and AIR in furnaces to create glass art. Dale Chihuly, the well-known pioneer of American studio glass, blew his first bubble of glass in 1965 and tap here, along with giant Ikebana flower arrangements, and his sensational Seaforms, which conjure up WATER. A Macchia garden bursts into bloom. A Persian wall is accompanied by Chihuly’s paintings. Chihuly’s luminous Baskets vie for attention with his flamboyant Venetians. A Chihuly Venetian was once described as a vase that has had an affair with a chandelier.
Chihuly is also fascinated with Native American artifacts, which can be seen in his glass art, together with his love of the Pacific Northwest, where his studio is based. The Baskets, one of his first glass series in 1977, was inspired by the slumped forms of woven native baskets and he incorporated colored threads of glass in patterns derived from the Native wool blankets which he collects. His Seaforms were inspired by his love of the ocean and the colors in his Macchia designs evoke memories of his mother’s flower garden. Arthur Wiener’s impressive Macchia collection was the centerpiece of the Smithsonian National Building Museum in Washington to honor Chihuly when he received the 2016 Visionary Award from the Smithsonian Craft Show.
The largest Chihuly installation at WMODA is a magnificent Persian wall designed originally for Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio restaurant in San Francisco, together with two dramatic paintings.
“Ever since Chihuly’s accidents in the mid-1970s,” says museum director Louise Irvine, “which prevented him from blowing glass himself, painting has been an important form of creative expression and a way to communicate the concepts he wants to explore in glass to his studio assistants. He directs his gaffers and glass blowers, more like a choreographer than a dancer, more like a director than an actor.”
A new generation of Florida glass artists finds inspiration in the four elements. Rob Stern conveys the power of the wind in his iconic Windstars, symbolizes the earth with his leaves of glass, and represents water with his giant Conch shells and corals in his installation Constellations, is a dazzling display. These starfish/octopus hybrids whirl and glitter in space.
Josh Fradis creates Coral Caverns and surging Waves with crests of seafoam that represent the ebb and flow of the tides. Chelsea Rousso creates wearable glass fashions inspired by the wonders of the deep.
The WMODA exhibition continues through September 30.
On display is a mermaid tail ripe for selfies to represent the 1000 Mermaids Project, a sculpture group that sinks concrete mermaids to restore Florida’s coral reefs with the City of Dania Beach. The museum’s proximity to the sea has inspired several exhibitions over the years, including Splash! and Dive into WMODA.
Over the summer, the Ocean Rescue Alliance and the 1000 Mermaids Project started installing Broward’s first underwater sculpture garden to help restore the coral reef near Dania Beach. Another new mermaid selfie tail is now located near the Quarterdeck restaurant at the Dania Beach Fishing Pier: 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project.
Hollywood artist Lloyd Goradesky, who has a large kinetic weathervane in Boynton Beach, has some of the smaller versions on display and for sale at the Museum. Let Love Guide Your Way is the name of the original functioning weathervane, 16 feet tall, that was made for the International Kinetic Art Exhibit and Symposium in Boynton Beach where art, nature, and technology collided. Since its debut in 2018, Lloyd has expanded Let Love Guide Your Way into a community interactive art project to spread the much-needed message of universal love.
In Lloyd’s words, “A weathervane is a device used to measure wind direction. A ‘weathervane’ is also a metaphoric expression to describe people who change their views frequently. In a chaotic world, when faced with a dilemma, let love guide your way.”
His garden sculpture, 4 feet tall, was exhibited at this year’s Art Fair on the Water in Fort Lauderdale. One is at WMODA standing on a heart-shaped granite base.
A new selling exhibition opens on August 28 with a selection of animals created by the glass maestros of Murano. The pop-up show traces the evolution of glass animal sculptures in Venice from the 1930s to the present day with Mid-Century Modern designs alongside contemporary interpretations of the animal kingdom in glass.
The Museum is a worthy stop in Dania, followed up by a visit to top local eateries like Tarks Seafood and Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor, then a cruise over to the Dania Beach Pier to watch surfers and sunsets.
Unusual exhibits at hidden gem museum in Dania Beach