The folks at The Stranger have been doing yeoman’s work exposing the process by which the proposed Chihuly “museum” is being foisted upon the city, and the ham-fisted public relations campaign by which the backers are attempting to fake some glass-roots street cred. What we’ve learned so far:
The committee considering bids for the Fun Forest site appears likely to be stacked in favor of the Chihuly proposal:
The problem is, certain members of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission and the Century 21 Committee have already publicly spoken out in favor of the Chihuly Museum project. For example, Jan Levy spoke for the Chihuly Museum at Tuesday’s meeting and she is Century 21 Committee co-chair; her fellow co-chair is Jeffrey Wright, owner of the Space Needle. Wright is financially backing the Chihuly Museum. Levy also serves on the Seattle Center Advisory Commission.Robert Nellums, director of the Seattle Center, also spoke in favor of the project at Tuesday’s public meeting—even though he was moderating the meeting. Representatives from Seattle International Film Festival, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Intiman Theater, and other vested Seattle Center interests all stumped for the Chihuly Museum.
And speaking of Space Needle/Chihuly “museum” owner Jeffrey Wright, it turns out that he’s a big contributor to Republican candidates and causes — over $50,000 worth in recent years. Not that this in itself says anything about the virtues of a Chihuly museum, but as Dominic Holden astutely points out:
The company behind the Space Needle is the entity that wants to build and would profit from the Chihuly glass museum. Asked if Wright would personally make money from the Chihuly museum, Space Needle spokeswoman Mary Bacarella says, “Well he’s the owner. It’s a for-profit [business].”
[…] Building the Chihuly museum would help line the pockets of someone who donates heavily to political causes and candidates that clash with most Seattle residents. And now he’s trying to use public land, owned by those people, to make his profits.
I guess this is what many of the project’s well-heeled backers meant when they repeatedly referred to it as “a gift.”
And while “museum” backers both dis the notion of open space being essential to the Seattle Center while insisting that no other proposals for the site have been made, Cienna Madrid reports otherwise:
John Sutherland, an administrator at the University of Washington, submitted a proposal to Seattle Center director Robert Nellums in 2007. Sutherland proposed demolishing the covered pavilion and creating a greenbelt/picnic area, adding new rides in the kids area, and introducing six new major amusement park rides, including a roller coaster. Sutherland’s plan also called for a kid’s public playground and a water play area.
When Sutherland was submitting his proposal, the Seattle Center master planning process (formally called the Century 21 Master Plan) was just beginning. He attended “at least 60 different meetings,” he says, during which officials and the public made it clear that what the people wanted was more green space. In the end, Sutherland says, Nellums told him that the proposal was not going to happen. “And I thought that was fair,” says Sutherland. “Even though my proposal incorporated green space, I thought we lost fair and square. It wasn’t what the people wanted.”
So when Sutherland made his family-friendly proposal, the Century 21 Committee, which Wright co-chaired, dismissed it as not providing enough green space. And now Wright himself is proposing constructing a for-profit, paid-admission gallery/gift shop/cafe/catering hall on the site. Huh.
Oh. And from the Credit Where Credit Is Due Department, after credulously reporting “overwhelming support” for the project the morning after the sham hearing, the Seattle Times at least comes back with a report on the expensive PR offensive the backers have launched:
Representatives of the Space Needle went two hours early to a public meeting about their proposed Dale Chihuly exhibit at Seattle Center to make sure their supporters would be first on the list to speak.
They filled in the first 60-or-so speaking slots. It was clear from the handwriting that some people had signed up multiple people…
Yup. That’s why the respectable folk got to speak at 6:30 PM, while I didn’t get to the podium until almost 9.
Heard enough? The folks at Slog have conveniently compiled a list of phone numbers and email addresses of Seattle City Council members and other players for you to contact and voice your opinion. Or you can conveniently mass email them here.