Within a few weeks, the Seattle City Council is expected to approve a lease agreement to develop, construct, and operate a Chihuly glass museum on the Seattle Center campus for the next 30 years. But the $350,000 annual lease will be decidedly different than the deal that was sold to the public last fall.
Back then, museum backers were eager to promise funding for a million-dollar playground on campus, as well as a 1,700-square-foot retail gallery that would showcase other Northwest artists (after the Chihuly museum was criticized as a one-trick pony), to make the controversial private business on public land more palatable.
But now the offer to fund a Northwest artists gallery is off the table. At a city council meeting on April 7, Seattle Center director Robert Nellams said that the Frontier Gallery—which is the space once proposed for the Northwest artists gallery—will remain in place through next year's 50th anniversary celebration of the 1962 World's Fair. Nellams didn't discuss why the Chihuly museum wouldn't be funding the gallery, and Chihuly museum backers did not respond to a request for comment. Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust simply said, "I don't really know what happened with the gallery space."
Instead, Nellams has promised that Seattle Center will open a gallery inside the Center House dedicated to selling the work of Pacific Northwest artists—but again, it won't be funded by the museum. Nellams said he hopes the Chihuly museum will open in 2012, in time for the World's Fair celebrations.