Chihuly glass exhibit for Seattle Center gets OK'd by city council

Apr 26, 2011

[UPDATE/CORRECTION: Bumbershoot's Visual Arts Exhibits will move from the Northwest Rooms to Seattle Center Pavilion and the adjacent courtyard.]

The Space Needle’s owners get a Chihuly museum, a community radio station gets a new home and Bumbershoot’s visual art space gets, well, nobody seems to be sure.

Tuesday night, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a lease for a Dale Chihuly glass art museum at the former Fun Forest amusement park at Seattle Center.

Under the agreement, Center Art - which owns the Needle - will build and operate the exhibition hall and art garden. They will pay for the project, donate $1 million for a children’s play area north of the monorail terminal and pay $350,000 a year in rent.

Part of a deal worked out earlier will move alternative community radio station KEXP onto the Center after the station got bumped out of future museum site. Last fall, a Seattle Center panel recommended Chihuly over KEXP, contending that the glass museum would bring in more money. Projections call for the exhibit to attract 400,000 paid visitors and $1.1 million dollars in revenue.

Said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw:

“Seattle will have another world-class attraction and Seattle Center will be further invigorated.”

The new exhibition’s opening is planned to coincide with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair in April 2012.

KEXP was one of the strongest contestants for the Fun Forest site before the Chihuly Exhibition was eventually recommended. The radio station will now be moving into the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms at the corner of First Avenue and Republican Street. The venue had become the main refuge of the visual arts at Bumbershoot, a festival they originally spawned but which has since become increasingly dedicated to the performing arts.

In an interview with Seattle Met magazine in December, Bumbershoot’s producer, One Reel Festivals chief John Stone, was philosophical:

“Seattle Center is a dynamic space. It evolves over time…visual arts are a historical component of the festival, and our goal is to continue to feature them. Where and how exactly, I can’t say at this point. ”