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Using glass art to connect young people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to better futures.


Hilltop Artists students in Italo Scanga’s Sculpture Class, summer of 1994. Photograph by Frederick D. Joe, courtesy of The News Tribune

In response to growing need in the community, artist and Tacoma-native Dale Chihuly co-founded Hilltop Artists with Kathy Kaperick in 1994. Since then, Hilltop Artists has been transforming the lives of youth through the power of art, adult mentorship, and wraparound services.

From the beginning, Hilltop Artists has served as a refuge for youth ages 12 to 20 from diverse backgrounds. The inaugural students, a group of 20 youth from the neighborhood, ushered in a legacy of creative exploration as an alternative to violence and delinquency. With humble beginnings in a former woodshop at Jason Lee Middle School, Hilltop Artists students’ first foray into glass involved converting ordinary Snapple bottles into blown glass drinkware and vases.

In addition to the hot shop at Jason Lee, which was renovated between 1999 and 2001, Hilltop Artists has grown over the last two decades to include a hot shop at Wilson High School and a flameworking studio at Ford Middle School. Tacoma Public Schools has consistently partnered with Hilltop Artists, highlighting the organization as a positive force in increasing students’ academic and interpersonal success. Hilltop Artists now serves over 650 students a year through the following programs: After School at Jason Lee, Wilson, and Ford; Daytime at Jason Lee and Wilson; Arts Connect and AC2; Team Production; Outreach; and Summer Glass Arts.

Today, Hilltop Artists continues to provide tuition-free glass instruction to youth who face many obstacles to success — never refusing services based on past behavior, grades, disabilities, or artistic talent. Student graduation rates and other indicators of success reflect the amazing power of glass art to transform lives. The popularity of public glass sales and the number of installations throughout the community speaks to the creativity and strength of Hilltop Artists’ students. Hilltop Artists is dedicated to the mission, “Using glass art to connect young people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to better futures.”

Please visit our events page to learn how you can connect with us during our anniversary year.


Thank You to our 25th Anniversary Sponsor!



All youth, ages 12-20, in Pierce County can participate in our programs, which take place in the Tacoma and Franklin Pierce School Districts. Our six programs – Daytime, After School, Summer Glass Arts, Team Production, Arts Connect, and Outreach – are all available tuition-free.

Staff Alum


In addition to our wonderful students, the Hilltop Artists’ community includes volunteers, staff, donors, parents, community partners, alumni, Board Members, supporters, and advocates! Follow the link to see Board and staff lists.

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Why do you what you do and how? Research has shown that students who have access to art, have better academic and interpersonal success. Hilltop Artists exemplifies this as our students have learned many transferable skills through their glass training.