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Urban Population Shifts, Rendered in Blown Glass

The work of a Michigan artist illustrates just how fragile cities can be.
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Norwood Viviano/Chrysler Museum of Art

Fine art is not the most common use of Census data. A well-drawn chart or map, sure, but usually nothing worthy of a museum. But the work of Michigan artist Norwood Viviano is challenging that notion by taking urban population data and translating it into glass. Yes, glass.

25 of Viviano’s crystalline forms are dangling evenly from a ceiling at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, each representing the population trajectory of an American city as far back as 400 years. Designed using 3-D computer modeling, then hand-blown in painstaking proportion with one another, the length of each form corresponds to the time since that city’s founding, the width indicates population density, and changes in color signal a historic shift.