Monday March 26, 2018 | by Valerie Hughes

Artist Kait Rhoads taps the social aspects of glass work to spread the word about ocean ecology (and celebrate her 50th)

From her murrini-dappled blown vessels to her woven copper-wire-and-glass assemblages, Kait Rhoads' works are often inspired by the colors, forms, and patterning of oceanic forms. Her connection to the water was forged when her family lived on a sailboat in the Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands during her childhood. To celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday on March 31, Rhoads is having a party that will bring together her love of the aquatic, her glass artwork, and her social network for a good cause. She is inviting friends and volunteers to come participate in the construction of jellyfish tentacles for a large-scale art project, which will be displayed at the totally renovated Pacific Seas Aquarium set to replace the 52-year-old North Pacific Aquarium at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. The new aquarium is set to open in Summer 2018. When completed, Rhoads’ project will consist of three large-scale glass jellyfish, each roughly six feet long, that will function as chandeliers in the aquarium’s atrium.

In an email exchange with the Glass Hot Sheet, Rhoads explains that her personal life and work life are often connected and, as a glass artist, it is only natural for the two to intertwine. When it comes to her 50th birthday, she ponders: “Why not make it special and memorable?"

She also adds that she is using her birthday as a "practice run" to see if working with the public on the project is feasible. With two more jellyfish that need to be constructed, Rhoads hopes that she will be able to use the public to help. This project will be Rhoads’ first permanent public-art piece. Her birthday bash will be held in her Bemis Arts studio and refreshments will be provided. To be a part of the celebration, email Rhoads at for more information.

Rhoads has been a volunteer at the Seattle aquarium for four and a half years. As a volunteer, she focuses on ocean conservation and when she was awarded this project, she wanted to see how she could “use this artwork to spread the message of ocean ecology.” It is important to Rhoads to spread this message, especially to the younger generations, since they are the ones who will be taking care of our oceans in the future.

To produce the glass for her project, Rhoads turned to Hilltop Artists, an organization that was co-founded by Dale Chihuly and Kathy Kaperick. The foundation is dedicated to supporting young people in their glass art endeavors, as well as in their personal lives if they face challenges, and works closely with the Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma. Rhoads is a regular donor to Hilltop Artists and greatly admires its dedication to the community.

In an October 2017 event, Rhoads worked on a portion of her jellyfish project at the middle school with young students. Biologist Chad Widmer also attended, lecturing on the new aquarium, Rhoads’ project, and, most importantly, on jellyfish and ocean conservation. The lecture lasted an hour and Rhoads, along with the students, then spent two hours working on glass tubing for the jellyfish. That same month, Rhoads also encouraged Hilltop Artists to join her at the Museum of Glass to work on the bell of the jellyfish, rather than the tentacles. During this event, Rhoads’ goal was to attract as many Tacoma residents as she could, so they could become invested in the project and learn about the importance of ocean ecology.

With this project, Rhoads hopes to increase people’s awareness of humanity’s effect on ocean life. With her childhood memories of growing up on a sailboat, Rhoads is disappointed to see the decline of our oceans. Areas that were once so full of life are dying. She explains to Hot Sheet, “I want to do my best to bring awareness to the incredible world that lies beneath the waves and our responsibility towards its health.”

In addition, Rhoads’ studio will also be open to the public during the Bemis Arts Spring Show, on April 28 from 12 PM - 8 PM and on April 29 from 12 PM -6 PM. Visitors will be allowed to view Rhoads’ progress on her jellyfish works, as well as see other open studios and watch live music and performances. The show will take place over several floors of the Bemis Building. There is a call for artists for Bemis’ Spring 2018 juried art show.

Another work of Rhoads’, called Red Polyp, will be displayed in the Bainbridge Island Art Museum in the winter of 2018 to 2019. The work was an extensive project and its creation process can be viewed here.


Kait Rhoads
Kait Rhoads’ 50th Birthday Celebration: Jellyfish for Pacific Seas
March 31, 2018
If interested in volunteering, contact the artist at for more information.

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.