Chihuly glass exhibition recommended for Seattle Center
ROSEMARY PONNEKANTI; Staff writer
A Dale Chihuly glass exhibit is among features Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is recommending to fill the soon-to-close Fun Forest area at the Seattle Center, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday.
While the new exhibit could be viewed as competition for Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, MoG staff said Wednesday the exhibit also could be beneficial for the museum if it draws a bigger audience to glass art.
McGinn’s recommendations – which also include adding new quarters for radio station KEXP 90.3 FM and moving forward on a new Memorial Stadium project – come after many months of discussion about the use of the site. His recommendations now go to the Seattle City Council for approval.
“We’ve listened, and we’ve worked hard to bring forward a set of proposals to make Seattle Center more vibrant, more kid-friendly, and more financially stable,” said Mayor Mike McGinn in a written statement. “I’m impressed by the commitment to community of everyone involved.”
The Chihuly exhibit would be produced jointly by the Space Needle Corp. and Chihuly Studio, and funded by Space Needle president and CEO Jeff Wright. It would occupy the current Fun Forest south site next to the Space Needle. The Fun Forest amusement park is scheduled to close at the end of December.
With interior space of 12,500 square feet and exterior space of 26,000 square feet, the Chihuly exhibit would include inside glass art by the Tacoma-born glass artist, plus a garden with glass art and a landscaped border. The exhibit would include a glass house structure featuring a cascade of Chihuly artwork flowing from the ceiling. There also would be about 6,200 square feet for a cafe, retail space and a lobby.
The lease footprint occupies about two-thirds of the current Fun Forest site. It would replace about 30,000 square feet of asphalt now on the site.
According to the mayor’s office, the exhibit would involve no public funds for construction or operation, and would generate $24 million in tax and lease revenue for the city of Seattle over the life of the 20-year lease. Using about half of the space, it is expected to generate twice the rental income to the Seattle Center that the Fun Forest has.
The mayor’s office estimates it would create 225 jobs and involve partnerships with Pratt Fine Arts Center, the Chihuly-founded Pilchuck School, ArtsFund and Seattle Public Schools. The City of Seattle estimates it would attract 400,000 visitors a year – a huge number, considering Tacoma’s Museum of Glass attracted its 1.5 millionth visitor in August, eight years after it opened.
MoG was the brainchild of Chihuly and former University of Puget Sound president Phil Phibbs. It initially focused exclusively on Chihuly, but expanded its mission to include works of glass from artists worldwide, at Chihuly’s urging.
“We don’t know how it will impact the Museum of Glass, but obviously the Chihuly name is huge,” said Museum of Glass spokeswoman Julie Pisto. “I’m sure it will be very popular. We’re looking at it as an opportunity for collaboration in the future. If more people become exposed to and intrigued by (glass), maybe they’ll visit here.”
The exhibit would open between January and April 2012, depending on how quickly the decision moves through the council, said Robert Nellams, director of the Seattle Center.
Other elements of the mayor’s proposal include creating a children’s playground and open green space for the north Fun Forest area, providing new quarters for not-for-profit radio station KEXP in the Center’s Northwest Rooms at First Avenue and Republican Street, and setting up a task force to work on plans for the new Memorial Stadium. Included in the task force are the Seattle Center Foundation and 4Culture, with Jeff Wright heading the capital campaign. The Wright family has committed $1 million to create the playground and another $1 million to support it, while the Chihuly Exhibit would give $2 million to seed the playground. In addition, the mayor announced a $10 million capital campaign to improve open spaces in the Fun Forest area.
The KEXP move would open up the station’s music activities to the public, including live studio performances and staff at work.
“We see the upper Northwest Rooms offering visitors and passers-by the chance to discover and witness music being curated, produced and performed,” KEXP’s executive director Tom Mara said in a statement. “We have a vision for opening up the concrete walls with more windows around the building to let people take in live performances and watch KEXP’s music staff at work. The vision also includes an adjacent live stage to connect folks to artists in an outdoor setting. Indoors, we envision a gallery where people could come in to watch an in-studio set and then take a tour of KEXP’s studios.”
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 email@example.com