Surprise! (Not!): Panel recommends Chihuly Museum for Fun Forest site

As Cienna reports over on Slog, the panel tasked with reviewing proposals for redeveloping the Seattle Center’s Fun Forest has recommended a Chihuly Museum as the best use of the 1.6 acre site.


The whole selection process was of course a sham intended to mollify opponents of the for-profit glass tchotchke gallery, gift shop and catering hall with the semblance of public input, so that all involved could pat themselves on the back that the Seattle Way was appropriately honored. And like trained monkeys, we all scampered into the public meetings and rode our unicycles on command.

As I wrote back in August:

Last night hundreds of people gathered again to voice our opinions about the best public use of the Fun Forest site at the Seattle Center, and once again we couldn’t help but get the vibe that we were just being humored. Oh, the committee and the Chihuly gift-shop/catering-hall folks at least tried to make a better show of it this time as compared to the insulting propaganda-fest of the first public meeting, but it was still just a show. I didn’t talk to anybody who believed  a decision hasn’t already been made.

The problem is, as much as the committee will ultimately claim that this was a fair and open process, there’s nothing fair or open about taking a year and a half to secretly negotiate the details of the Chihuly proposal, and then publishing an RFP tailored to the same while giving everybody else just six weeks to respond. And so yeah, I kinda resented being there last night playing the role of “Man in Auditorium” in the Seattle Center’s unintentional amateur production of Our Town.

And like most bad theater, it’s not hard to predict how this play ends.

Yup, a complete and total sham.

That said, I suppose I should take a little satisfaction in helping to pressure the Space Needle folks to add to the proposal $1 million for an “artist-designed playground,” plus $50,000 a year for maintenance. But a million bucks doesn’t buy you a lot of playground these days, so it strikes me as an awfully cheap price in exchange for building an 8-foot wall around a couple acres of scarce, in-city park space.

Ah well, money talks, and all that.


  1. 1

    Cracked spews:

    Between this and the tunnel overage issue in the city counsel, I’ve given up on the idea that this city isn’t basically corrupt. This level of loss of faith in local elected officials is a new recent phenomenon for me.

    This Chihuly thing makes it even obvious that the elite aren’t going to try vary hard anymore to hide their control, even on such basics as circusses to divert the citizenry. They must figure we should be happy with our sports stadiums…

  2. 2

    uptown spews:

    Thanks to the miracle of Non-Partisan elections, the elite are allowed full control of our local politics. Who has time to build a party type organization up from scratch, just for yourself, when running for office? Much easier to just take the big money from the elites and hold your nose while you vote for their pet projects.

  3. 4

    I Got Nuthin' spews:

    Pissed at myself for falling for the storyline that this wasn’t going to be an automatic coronation.

  4. 5

    Steve spews:

    The glass museum was a done deal from the get go. The other proposals never had a snowball’s chance in hell.

  5. 6

    Sarajane46th spews:

    It’s hard to imagine an exhibit or attraction that would bring in more tourists and more tourist dollars than a Chihuly Museum at Seattle Center. He’s officially a National Treasure. People will spend a few hours before boarding their cruise ships or after going up the Space Needle. All of this will stimulate the local economy, create jobs and add traffic for the other Seattle Center vendors. It will pay half a million a year of Seattle Center’s upkeep. It will be beautiful. It’s hard to see why so many (of my friends!) are taking an elitist position about this, when we need the business!

    I welcome the museum and its cafe (why misrepresent it as a catering hall?). I plan to visit and bring my friends.

  6. 7

    Mark Centz spews:

    @Sarajane46th, I hear that SAM has a little empty space in their shiny new tower, maybe that might have been a better location for our local global commercial artist. Also, you might want to follow the links, this line has already been walked.

  7. 8


    Sarajane @6,

    I would not have opposed a Chihuly “museum” if it were at a more appropriate location; indeed, I suggested several such alternatives in previous posts. But the fact that it has to go at the foot of the Space Needle to best serve the Wrights’ business interests is not reason enough for me to wall off this precious space from the non-paying public.

    As for my characterization of it as a catering hall, there is no doubt in my mind the that this “museum” will quickly become one of the city’s premier catering spaces for special events. Of course, all the food will come down the elevator from the Space Needle’s current catering facilities. Hence the location.

  8. 9

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 6: The cafe isn’t the same as the “catering hall”. The cafe will be for casual visitors while the museaum is open to the general public (paying visitors). But the people running it can close it to the public at any time for private events. These will bring in the real money, as Boeing, Microsoft, etc. will pay for the priviledge of having their guests served hor’dourves (sp?) and wine among the Chihuly pieces, and then sit down to a catered dinner of steak or salmon.

    But these catered dinners won’t mean new business for anybody – they will just draw the business away from the exisiting restaurants, or other public attractions like the Seattle Aquarium, which also hold such events. It will mean no net increase in jobs or revenue, just a re-direction of that revenue into the those running the space.

  9. 10

    rhp6033 spews:

    “…Of course, all the food will come down the elevator from the Space Needle’s current catering facilities…”

    Gee, that’s the best argument AGAINST scheduling an event there I’ve ever heard! The food from the Space Needle isn’t that good, considering the prices. Come to think of it, it isn’t that good, even ignoring the price. It’s a tourist trap.

    There are many, many, other fine restaurants in the region which serve food which is much, much better.

  10. 11

    punk on 5th avenue spews:

    @7–that line has been walked, skipped and hop-scotched

    @8–the foot of the needle is the key to this whole enterprise

    @9–the catered events will not bring greater net revenues, unless it is taking business from the eastside…

    All very much right on target. Sarahjane sounds like she (?) is part of the Chihuly/Wright cadre. But none of that matters. Now. Did it ever? Maybe not after all.

    But @10 – hafta differ here, yes, it is expensive but the food at the restaurant today can compete with fine restaurants. There is no better view over which to enjoy a glass of wine, either. Been there a few times in recent years. It’s too bad that it has to live down its own long-term history, but that’s life.

  11. 12

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 11: I’ll admit, that after having been burned several times, it’s been a number of years since I’ve eaten at the needle myself. So perhaps they’ve changed.

  12. 13

    glort spews:

    thats fucked. Chicrappy already has a place to show his shit in tacoma.

    oh well, just another reason for me to avoid seattle…

  13. 14

    worf spews:

    @6 –
    It’s hard to imagine an exhibit or attraction that would bring in more tourists and more tourist dollars than a Chihuly Museum at Seattle Center.
    You must not have a very active imagination. But beyond that, why is your primary concern for valuable, rare open space that it be “touristy”? How about those of who live here – don’t we count? Guess not…
    He’s officially a National Treasure
    I missed that “official” proclamation. He is a treasure in his own mind and the minds of his sycophantic followers, however.
    All of this will stimulate the local economy, create jobs and add traffic for the other Seattle Center vendors.
    So would a pavilion of topless hotdog vendors. Your point?
    It will pay half a million a year of Seattle Center’s upkeep.
    Whoopty-friggin’-doo. That’s a mighty puny price to pay for a cynical land grab by elitist, wealthy “art” patrons.
    It’s hard to see why so many (of my friends!) are taking an elitist position about this, when we need the business!
    In your topsy turvy world view, protesting the theft of open space by the wealthy elite is “elitist? Who are you channeling – Palin or McDonnell?

  14. 15

    Alki Area spews:

    This sucks. But like everyone said, this entire process (like the tunnel “discussions”) was fake from the outset. It was always going to come down to whoever gave the money. Screw the community, park space, or anything else. Since we ALREADY have a glass museum in Tacoma, and art museum (SAM) downtown with LOADS AND LOADS of space to fill and hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty office space downtown, did we really need to take space out of Seattle Center (a public facility) for another for-profit private museum? Ugh.

  15. 16

    worf spews:

    KEXP responds to Review Panel recommendation

    STATEMENT FROM KEXP — We are disappointed about the Review Panel’s recommendation and we continue to believe that KEXP at the Mural Amphitheater would be an enormous benefit to our community.

    We remain very committed to seeing this process through, and we are eager to hear from Seattle Center director Robert Nellams as well as the Mayor and City Council about how they plan to proceed.

    For the past two years, we have considered our relocation very carefully and we have explored the benefits and feasibility of several different locations — on and off the Center’s campus — for KEXP’s new home. The Arcade building at the Mural Amphitheater is the ideal location. While we await a decision from the mayor, we will need to examine more closely non-Seattle Center alternatives. Our ultimate goal is unchanged: to provide better service to thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of music lovers.

    We are grateful for the outpouring of support we and our proposal have received from our listeners, donors, and the community.

    About KEXP Public Radio

    KEXP is an influential, non-commercial radio station based in Seattle and supported through financial contributions from listeners and businesses worldwide. Over the last three decades, KEXP has built a reputation as a champion of new and emerging artists and musical forms. Today, KEXP programs a rare mix of music spanning multiple genres and the station brings listeners more than 500 live, in-studio performances each year.

    KEXP has a mission to enrich people’s lives by providing a wide array of music and by exploring, developing and applying relevant technology to deepen and extend musical experiences. Listeners enjoy KEXP at 90.3 FM in Seattle and around the world at

    The station is governed by the Friends of KEXP, a nonprofit organization that operates the station on behalf of the University of Washington, which holds the FCC license. A partnership with Vulcan Inc. provides facility support and programming collaboration. The University of Washington’s information technology group provides KEXP with the development and application of streaming services, technical expertise and other relevant technology to extend the music experience.

  16. 18


    @ 13, “that’s fucked”.
    I have to differ there, I believe it is Superfucked, though I suppose we have differing thresholds of just how “fucked” something is.

    I do not plan to visit the ashtray shop.

    I prefer those that don’t blow art nouveau.

  17. 19


    How different is this than what happened five years ago with the Sculpture Park and the Waterfront Streetcar? The outcome was a foregone conclusion, yet elected officials made sure that they “heard the people”. And the moneyed interests prevailed.

  18. 20

    Mike spews:

    I hope the Council keeps their high art standards and follows this Chihuly museum with a Thomas Kinkaide museum. And then a Dogs Playing Poker museum followed by a Margaret Keane museum for Kids With Big Eyes art, and then hopefully a Pokemon museum and a Beanie Babies museum.

    Why not a museum for all local artists? Especially the creative ones.

  19. 23

    J. Whorfin spews:

    22: Hey, now there’s an idea!

    Sarajane46th @ 6: You honestly think this museum will do any better than the EMP/Science Fiction museum? Last time I checked, neither has been very successful.

    What really bugs me about this proposal: Yet another shining example of the lack of vision from our local leaders. We have a lot of intelligent folks around here, and this is the best we can do?

  20. 24

    worf spews:

    23: Yet another shining example of the lack of vision from our local leaders.
    Bingo. One could not come up with a more hare-brained scheme than to take an empty space boiling over with endless vibrant possibility and upon it build a museum dedicated to the assorted tchotchkes of a one eyed loon.
    As you noted, there is already one struggling museum there, one that is devoted to the two largest franchises in our popular culture. If Rock n Roll and Star Trek can’t pay the bills, don’t try to tell me that an endless parade of knick knacks will.

  21. 25

    ArtFart spews:

    Let’s see how busy this place becomes after it’s built hosting events put on by the Gates Foundation, the Washington Policy Center and the Discovery Institute.

    The one cheerful thought (such as it is) is that Kemper Freeman must be pooping Brooks Brothers trousers at the thought of fewer of those gatherings taking place in Bellevue.

  22. 26

    Brenda Helverson spews:

    6. Sarajane46th spews: It’s hard to imagine an exhibit or attraction that would bring in more tourists and more tourist dollars than a Chihuly Museum at Seattle Center. He’s officially a National Treasure.

    Come on. Chuhuly doesn’t even do his own work. He claims to sketch something and then uses slave labor to create his “masterpiece.” I could do that. The skill involved in creating the piece isn’t Chihuly’s skill but the skill of a talented minion.

    Maybe Chihuly could create a glass studio at Seattle Center. No, wait, he already did that in Tacoma. Why should Seattle devalue Tacoma’s investment in the guy’s art?

    For me, the KEXP move makes the most sense, particularly if they could tie their facility close to KCTS.

  23. 27

    2cents spews:

    The state is billions in the hole and the county and the city are millions in the hole. I love the idea of a park for Seattle, but the reality is it would be fiscal irresposible for them not to consider the best bang for the buck.

  24. 28

    worf spews:

    27 – If revenue is the only consideration, then let’s build a combination brothel/liquor store/marijuana dispensary on the property and be done with it. But revenue is not the only consideration. What ever goes there will be part of the fabric of Seattle for many years to come. Even if the one-eyed-loon’s revenue projections are solid, which I don’t believe for a second, giving away public land to build a monument to a self aggrandizing borderline personality is not the best bang for the buck.

  25. 29

    glort spews:

    this is the type of shit that happens when people vote for politicians simply because of what letter is behind their name.

    you guys voted for these fucks – now deal with it.

  26. 30

    Blue John spews:

    @29 I agree, we need better democrats, not just any democrat. I’d vote republican if they were for the middle class, instead of the moneyed class.

  27. 32

    K.Coleman spews:

    If any of you are interested in continuing the fight and not just giving up, please add this group on Facebook: “I Love Seattle Center, But I Hate The Master Plan.” I realize I may not have a chance in hell, but I have an idea to present to the city council and it would be better if there was a following behind me. We may not be able to stop the Chihuly museum from happening, but maybe we could change some more things about it (such as: at least one free day a month for those who can’t afford such things, maybe build a second level on the Fun Forest building so you can keep the Fun and also have the glass?)