Tacoma Art Museum celebrates the work of Hilltop artists – KIRO 7 News Seattle


TACOMA, Wash. – At a hip store in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, artists are forged in glass.

The Hilltop Artists program was created for at-risk youth during a turbulent time in the Tacoma community.

Today, the work of 21 alumni is on display at the Tacoma Art Museum, in a one-of-a-kind exhibition.

It reflects the vision of a legendary glass artist whose name you probably know.

They’re unlikely craftsmen: teaching artist David Rios and hot workshop production manager Trenton Quiocho, using heat and an artistic eye to train another generation of Tacoma students in the art of making the glass.

“The main goal is to bring children from different cultural and economic backgrounds to a better future,” Quiocho said.

One of those kids is 14-year-old Eddie Gibbons.

When asked what they love about working with glass, they said, “I love almost everything about it. Yeah, my favorite thing is the people, being able to work with everyone.

Fourteen-year-old Destiny Celing also made it there.

“I don’t know many people (who) can say, ‘Oh, I dealt with hot glass while it was still molten and moving,'” Celing said. “It’s crazy.”

Indeed, it must have seemed crazy in 1994.

With Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood plagued by rampant gang violence, world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, Tacoma’s native son, co-founded a creative outlet for kids, a space to create glass like alternative to gang life.

Thus, the Hilltop Artists were born.

“I got involved in 2005,” Quiocho said. “I was 15 at the time.”

It has become his life.

“I was really intrigued by the material,” Quiocho said. “And I gravitated towards that and never stopped.”

For Rios, it was love at first sight.

“And I can already tell what the ending will be,” he told the students, “just because of the way it’s spitting right now.”

He was in sixth grade.

“Now I have the honor and blessing to be on the other side and to continue to encourage them to explore this stupid idea that we don’t know where it started,” Rios said. “But we know it’s a voice for the student at the end. And it became a voice for you. Yeah, absolutely.

Some 27 years after Hilltop Artists began, his artwork and that of 20 other alumni is now on display at the Tacoma Art Museum.

His pieces are a tribute to his heritage.

“It’s a perfect representation of who I am as a Mexican American and trying to fit in between those two cultures,” Rios said.

Quiocho curated the exhibition, including his work as well.

“My own grouping of these Filipino fish traps,” Quiocho said. “It has to do with my Filipino heritage and identity. But there’s also a lot of Venetian influence if you look at the patterns and techniques I use.

The folks at Hilltop Artists don’t expect everyone’s work to end up in a major art museum, but what they will take with them are the life lessons forged in glass.

There is plenty of time to see their work in person.

“GATHER: 27 Years of Hilltop Artists” will be on display at the Tacoma Art Museum through September 4.

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