Last week I constructively proposed three alternate locations that might be better suited to a Chihuly museum than a couple acres of public land designated as open space, and in the comment thread HA readers offered several additional suggestions. But according to The Stranger’s Cienna Madrid, such reasonable conversation is apparently a nonstarter:
[Space Needle CEO Ron] Sevart insists that the Space Needle has not, and will not, consider another location for the project (although the Wright family could certainly afford it).
That’s because far from the “gift” to the city many Chihuly backers claim it to be, this project is first a foremost a for-profit venture, and there is undeniable synergy between the existing Space Needle businesses and what they are describing as “Chihuly at The Needle.”
As I’ve mentioned before, in addition to the overpriced/undercheffed restaurant at the top, the Wrights operate a bustling catering business out of the Skyline banquet facility, and the proposed Chihuly “museum” would instantly become one of the hottest catering halls in the city. But I’m sure the prospect of offering a “discounted” joint admission fee to both the Space Needle and the Chihuly museum would be lucrative as well. Rather than paying $17 for the Needle and $15 for Chihuly, $25 might get you in to see them both… and the Wrights up their average ticket by nearly 50% over what they’re getting now.
Meanwhile, Cienna and I aren’t the only “journalists” weighing in against the project, with Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat bucking his own editorial board, and calling out the proposed Chihuly “museum” for what it really is:
See the problem here, Seattle Center? Your Chihuly gallery is the anti-fireworks. It’s exclusive. The campaign for it is canned.
If we’re going to have a museum, can we at least broaden it beyond the overexposed Chihuly? And with a money-raising effort, make it free to enter, a la the Olympic Sculpture Park?
Or how about, instead, putting in a giant playground? Or even just trees and grass?
A giant playground! Or maybe even a giant, kick-ass one! What a great idea! Now that’s a proposal I could get behind.
Why? Because Seattle is a city desperately in need of more family-friendly amenities, something, apart from Danny, the Seattle Times doesn’t seem to recognize, but which, apparently, the New York Times does:
The Kids and Families Congress is to take place at the Seattle Center, the site of the Space Needle and the 1962 World’s Fair. The center itself has become a topic of debate, over the future of five acres of asphalt at the foot of the needle that for decades has been home to the Fun Forest, an aging amusement park.
The Fun Forest is set to close for good at summer’s end and the site’s private owners have proposed replacing it with a private museum featuring the work of Dale Chihuly, the Northwest glass artist. Critics say that sends a wrong signal about Seattle’s priorities. A private glass museum, some argue, would not necessarily be regarded as family friendly.
“It’s not just symbolic,” said Sally Bagshaw, who is chairwoman of the City Council parks committee. “It’s very much at the heart of what I’m talking about: how do we keep families here? We want to make Seattle a place where people come because it is the best place in the world for your kids.”
And ask any kid what they’d rather visit, a really kick-ass playground or a museum of glass, and I’m guessing most would choose the former.