Location, location, location: three alternative sites for a Chihuly Museum

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a bit of a cultural elitist. So I want to make it absolutely clear that my opposition to the proposed Chihuly “museum” on the Fun Forest site at the Seattle Center should not be construed as opposition to museums in general or Chihuly in particular. In fact, I think there are strong arguments to make that a “Chihuly Museum” could indeed be a great addition to Seattle, attracting both tourists and their money.

Just not at this particular location.

The Seattle Center is a scarce, kid-friendly attraction near downtown Seattle, and if we’re to have any hope of achieving our density goals over the next few decades we need more near-by amenities for young families, not less. And the several acres of prime parkland the Fun Forest is vacating provides a rare opportunity to create the kinda fun, open and free-admission public space that will draw families to the Center again and again and again.

I fully understand the financial attraction of this proposal to both the Wrights and the cash-strapped Center directors, but a private, for-profit, paid-admission “museum” is simply not the best use of this acreage. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that if your goal is to showcase the work of Dale Chihuly and the Northwest glass art movement he helped spawn and promote, there are equally good, if not better places to build a glass gallery in Seattle.

For example, with the collapse of Washington Mutual, the Seattle Art Museum has struggled to fill vacant space at the former Wamu Center, leaving several floors of the building available to a potential glass art showcase. Situated smack dab in the center of the downtown, a comfortable walk from the cruise terminal and the city’s finest hotels, the Wamu Center could prove an ideal location for a glass museum, capitalizing on its proximity to the Seattle Art Museum to concentrate and increase paid admission to both facilities.

Or, if the glass gallery’s backers really have their heart set on the Seattle Center, there is plenty of under utilized land surrounding the Center proper, including parking lots right across 5th Avenue from the EMP. If backers are being forthright in their claim that the proposed $11 per square foot lease is above market rates, then surely they could obtain an even better deal on a not quite so prime location.

But perhaps the best location for a high-profile, Chihuly-branded glass art showcase — one which would provide the most bang for the buck in terms of anchoring and revitalizing a neighborhood that is much in need of such a boost — would be the empty lot on the east side of Occidental Park, right in the heart of the struggling Pioneer Square neighborhood, and the hub of Seattle’s already existing gallery walk. A Chihuly Museum on this or some other nearby lot might prove the kinda public-private partnership I and others could get behind… and a boon to the entire Seattle arts community. Again, just like with the Wamu Center location, the Chihuly Museum and the surrounding galleries would mutually benefit from their co-location.

That’s just three locations, off the top of my head, that might be well suited to a Chihuly Museum without snatching precious open space from public use. And if this project, as it has been presented, is at least as much about art as it is about commerce, then I would hope its backers would take my constructive proposal seriously.


  1. 1

    Mark Centz spews:

    Spot on. These guys certainly learned their lessons from Clay Bennett. Hey, come to think of it, there’s space at the Center under a roof that isn’t being used for it’s designed purpose any longer, if they must have the Center why not The Key?

    There’s also a newly empty space just off Pioneer Square, the business selling wood pulp is having a rough go of it and is moving out. But I doubt I’d want my fragile glass art there in the next unscheduled tremblor. After the experience in Chile, that might also be true even at WaMu.

  2. 3


    North of KeyArena in part of the Northwest Rooms along Republican St , but not the portion along 1st, next to Vera, near the Rep.
    Just off the top of my head.

    I know it fails to meet their busboy synergy, but that is not my problem.

  3. 4


    Enclose the exterior of KeyArena as Steve Ballmer has proposed and lease some of that space that would face into Seattle Center.

    As for Seattle Center’s enclosed spaces, I would partner with the new Public Facilities District that the just passed SB 6889 forms and have those people manage most of it. As the state can attest, the Convention Center folks do not have a problem generating revenue.

  4. 5

    Emily spews:

    There’s lots of empty storefronts up on Aurora Ave north of where the Twin Tepees used to be. And that area sure could use some culture.

  5. 7

    Ekim spews:


    You don’t think Chewy’s Glass Emporium and Catering would add lots of culture to Seattle?

  6. 8

    Max Rockatansky spews:

    @7…the only Chewy that would add some culture(and class) to seattle is Chewbacca..

  7. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 I’m surprised Chihuly isn’t asking taxpayers to pay for a $500 million glass palace. Or is he?

  8. 12

    Juvenis spews:

    We must insist that any museum be expanded to included the work of Thomas Kinkade! Weekend art sales of mass produced art from China now held in hotels in Tukwila and Bellevue could, instead, be held at the museum. There could be a special wing for paintings on velvet.

  9. 13

    volcanic spews:

    Its by the Space Needle, because the Space Needle/Wright Family is paying for it. My assumption is that they think the combination of the two attractions next to each other increases their commerce. Away from the Needle, it doesn’t benefit the Needle.

  10. 15


    volcanic @13,

    I think it’s more that away from the Needle, the Needle doesn’t benefit the museum. You see, what the Wrights are really building is Seattle’s hottest new catering hall, and based at the foot of the Needle, where their catering facilities are already located, they need merely load the food onto carts, bring it down the elevator, and a few feet over to the museum. That is what this is really about.

  11. 18


    Also, why does a Chyihuly Gallery need to be ground level?

    What about the sky bridge at the Convention Center?

    Or, given the hige investgment Seattle has made in SLU, why not put the museum there instead of the BORE .. aka MOHI?

  12. 19


    @14, I call it busboy synergy.
    @13, the walk would do them good.

    I also do not want their gift shop on my front lawn, no matter how much they would want that location.

  13. 20

    lauramae spews:

    Come on. They will get a pass to do it. Elitism always wins, regardless of political party. The dems can do disgusting elitism just like the repubs. With the dem leadership at the city, state or national level, they will just look the other way and meakly rubber stamp whatever the moneyed class wants.

    The city will just mumble something about art and let it go through.

  14. 21

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I gotta tell ya…you KLOWNS beat everything, you know that.
    I laugh hard as Goldy goes into spin cycle over a little plot of ground.

    I just came in from putting up 20 Bluebird houses. Bluebirds like isolation and for the house to be on top of a fencepost. We seperated them by a 100 yards or so.

    I’ve also enjoyed helping my neighbors with calving and watch the Eagles & Hawks come in to eat the afterbirth.

    A few days ago, I put 8—15,000 sq ft bags of Turfbuilder on our yard. Then I cleaned out the chimney’s and our wood stoves.

    Also helped my neighbor fix the fenceline between our properties and around the perimeter of his 2 square miles.

    Tomorrow, the men are making Easter Breakfast between 1st and 2nd service for about 300 people. What a joy. Then we are bringing Easter Brunch to a couple Nursing Homes and singing with those lovely people.

    No one wastes time here screwin’ with each other over stupid stuff like you KLOWNS do.
    You KLOWNS are nuts…
    I’m just sayin’

  15. 23

    SeattleDenizen spews:

    Goldy you ought to have a sign up list so that you can mobilize some anti-chihuly-in-the-park forces if the opportunity should ever arise.

  16. 25


    Morgan @24,

    Eat me. No really… eat me.

    This post “Tea-Baggeresque”…? Why not just pull the epithets “Fascist” or “Communist” out of your ass? Or both. That’s what the Teabaggers do.

    I write a series of posts offering some constructive proposals — a kick-ass playground instead of a paid-admission glass museum, a small, targeted levy to pay for it, and several alternate locations that might be better sites for a Chihuly museum — and you just come here and dismiss me… because, you know, you disagree with me.

    You should go write for the Seattle Times editorial board.

  17. 26

    Chris Stefan spews:

    I’m sorry, but just as you paint those opposing a Chihuly museum and Wright catering hall at the Fun Forest site as “tea-baggeresque”, I have to say that blog entry is one of the biggest blow jobs to Chihuly and the Wrights I’ve ever seen. I mean, so fucking what, Chihuly and the Wrights have done a lot for the community over the years therefore the city should let them build a gift shop and catering hall at the base of the needle? Well crap, I had no idea that was the critera we used for deciding what to do with public property. Donate lots of money to charity and you too can build a warehouse, mall, or restaurant in a public park!

  18. 27


    Chris @ 26,

    And don’t you love the bullshit about how the Wrights helped build the Space Needle, as if we owe them something for that? The Wrights owned the construction company that was paid to build the Space Needle. They made a profit off it. Which is fine, and all, but not exactly the gift to city it’s been made out to be.