Glass Museum Honoring Living Legend Dale Chihuly Approved for Seattle Center

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A plan to build a glass museum honoring Dale Chihuly, a living national treasure renowned throughout the world for the searing genius of his incredibly beautiful creations, has been approved. In a press conference this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn announced that the proposed Chihuly Exhibition would be built at the foot of the iconic Space Needle.

The project has generated a significant amount of controversy and detractors have cited a number of reasons to oppose the project. "It destroys open space." "We don't need another Chihuly museum when there's one already in Tacoma." "Locals won't go to the museum." "We like things the way they are."

The operators of the Seattle Center Fun Forest were in effect run out of town in order to make room for the museum. The amusement park rides and arcade games, which have been a part of the Seattle Center since the 1962 Century 21 Expo, were viewed as a historical anachronism and out of keeping with the image that Seattle has of itself as a "World Class City".

The 44,000 square foot museum is a private project, proposed by the Wright family, which owns and operates the Space Needle. Its location gives the Wrights a monopoly on premium retail space around the Space Needle - the city's signature attraction - since much of the "museum" will in fact be dedicated to gift and souvenir shops.

A 20-year lease for $10 million for the Chihuly Exhibition has been agreed on. At $500,000 a year, the lease amounts to about $11 per square foot, a bargain basement price and well below the market rate for premium Class A retail space.

The museum will be built with private funds, however, and the Wright family have agreed to fork over an additional $2 million for the development and operation of an "outdoor play area" north of the Seattle Monorail terminal and adjacent to the Center House and Center Square.

The Chihuly controversy generated the traditional response from Seattle government, a Kabuki theater-esque poll of residents who were encouraged to submit their own proposals, crayon-and-paper submissions that would make residents feel like they were involved in the process, while deflecting general anger at having access to the Space Needle taken away.

One plan submission did gain traction, that of a music campus sponsored by local radio station KEXP. As a compromise, McGinn also announced that KEXP would be moving into the Seattle Center's Northwest Rooms on the corner of First Avenue and Republican Street.

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So Why The Fuss? : Understanding the opposition to the Chihuly Exhibition is a journey that involves understanding the psyche of the Pacific Northwest. Although he is a local artist, born in Tacoma, there are many natives who simply hate his work. Seeing yet another generic Chihuly glass sculpture that one of his assistants crafted induces the same gag factor that you get listening to a Kenny G Christmas album.

"Real" Seattleites hate Chihuly. When he was off getting wined-and-dined at art exhibits in New York and Europe, we were laughing at him when he was being mocked on Almost Live!

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