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Scene Last Night: Herbert Allison, Dale Chihuly’s Venice

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Leslie Chihuly, chairman of Seattle Symphony, and artist Dale Chihuly, a Fulbright alumnus.

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Leslie Chihuly, chairman of Seattle Symphony, and artist Dale Chihuly, a Fulbright alumnus. Close

Leslie Chihuly, chairman of Seattle Symphony, and artist Dale Chihuly, a Fulbright alumnus.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Raul Gomez Valverde, a Fulbright fellow from Madrid studying for an MFA at the School of Visual Arts, and Tom Haines, a biochemist at Rockefeller University. Close

Raul Gomez Valverde, a Fulbright fellow from Madrid studying for an MFA at the School of Visual Arts, and Tom Haines,... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Simin Allison, a board member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Herbert Allison, former head of the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Close

Simin Allison, a board member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Herbert Allison, former head of the U.S.... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Maria-Christina Spiessberger, a Fulbright fellow from Austria studyingn voice and composition at the Manhattan School of Music, and Terhi Lintukangas, a Fulbright fellow from Finland, enrolled in the MFA program at Pace University. Close

Maria-Christina Spiessberger, a Fulbright fellow from Austria studyingn voice and composition at the Manhattan School... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Lynne Kaufman, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, an Institute of International Education trustee, and Mark Angelson, deputy mayor of Chicago and the treasurer of the institute. Close

Lynne Kaufman, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, an Institute of International Education trustee, and Mark Angelson,... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Oleksii Liman, a Fulbright fellow from Ukraine who is studying for a master's in International Political Economy at Fordham University. Liman said he will complete his degree in December and would like to find a job in the financial sector in New York. Close

Oleksii Liman, a Fulbright fellow from Ukraine who is studying for a master's in International Political Economy at... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Writer and photographer Ruth Gruber, who studied in Cologne, Germany on an Institute of International Education fellowship. Gruber celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 30. Close

Writer and photographer Ruth Gruber, who studied in Cologne, Germany on an Institute of International Education... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, president of the United Nations General Assembly, and his wife, Muna Rihani. Close

Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, president of the United Nations General Assembly, and his wife, Muna Rihani.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Jacob Lieberman, a rabbinical student, Claire Benmosche, Margot Steinberg, director of individual giving at the Institute of International Education, and Denise Benmosche, an institute trustee and artist. Close

Jacob Lieberman, a rabbinical student, Claire Benmosche, Margot Steinberg, director of individual giving at the... Read More

Glass artist Dale Chihuly’s favorite restaurant is Harry’s Bar in Venice, he said last night as he dined on a beet and string bean salad at another Cipriani outpost, a catering hall at 55 Wall St. in New York.

Chihuly was there to pick up the Fritz Redlich Alumni Award from the Institute of International Education. The New York- based nonprofit administers exchange programs, including the Fulbright.

The institute’s Opening Minds to the World Gala Benefit also honored the organization’s chairman, retired banker Thomas S. Johnson. The more than 400 guests included Herbert Allison, former head of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and Morris Offit, chairman of Offit Capital Partners.

Chihuly walked to the stage in black shoes covered in splotches of color, accompanied by a brass-heavy instrumental version of U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

In 1968, Chihuly sailed from New York on the S.S. Michelangelo to take up a Fulbright fellowship in Venice. He carried a battery-operated record player on which he listened to Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” album.

A friend advised him to “shave the beard, buy a new suit, get a pair of wraparound shades and don’t look back,” Chihuly recalled in an interview. He kept the mustache and bought a suit in Venice and “a beautiful pair of two-toned leather boots for $100.”

He rented a room in a palazzo for $50 a month, fell in love with spaghetti alle vongole, and got to work studying glass blowing from the masters on the island of Murano.

“In the heyday of the Venetian empire, a glass blower wasn’t allowed to leave the island,” Chihuly said. “If he tried to leave, he was beheaded. If he made it to England, he was knighted.”

‘Too Intimidated’

Chihuly studied at the Venini factory, where he spent most of his time observing. “I was too intimidated to blow glass myself,” he said.

Back at home he found the courage to work with the material. “I rely a lot on fire, gravity and centripetal forces,” he said. He became a master artist with installations and museum exhibitions all over the world, including Venice.

He also created the Mellow Yellow Chihuly Persian Chandelier, which hangs in his dining room, where he and his wife, Leslie Chihuly, chairman of the Seattle Symphony, recently hosted a dinner for Ludovic Morlot, the symphony’s new music director.

It could have turned out differently.

“When I was a senior at the University of Washington I got a Fulbright to study weaving in Finland,” he said. “The host country rejected me.”

Chihuly Garden and Glass, an indoor and outdoor exhibition of the artist’s work, opens in Seattle in the spring.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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