The two players emerging as the leaders for the Seattle Center's Fun Forest site are each upping the ante in proposals that flesh out specifics for economic sustainability and cultural worth. If awarded the lease, KEXP would increase the number of their live in-studio performances from 500 annually to 700, while the Chihuly museum proponents are now promising a First Thursday spin-off art walk at the Seattle Center, complete with free admission to their otherwise spendy glass exhibit.
As I mentioned last week, the review panel set to recommend one (or more) of the eight projects bidding on the Fun Forest site sent out follow-up questions for the projects—questions like, What's your public benefit? and, What's your visitor ratio of tourists to locals to discount geriatric tour groups? Proponents' answers are now posted online.
First, KEXP makes the case that it would draw 100,000 (predominantly local) visitors a year to the Seattle Center, of whom 90,000 wouldn't otherwise visit the center. KEXP makes the case that more than 1/3 of these new visitors will come just to see their in-studio concerts, and they'll come with cash in hand:
KEXP is proposing to deliver to Seattle Center 33,500 new visitors each year via 700 in-studio sessions. The financial value that these visitors bring to the Campus and its tenants will amount to $558,000 annually, using conservative spending estimates of $14.75 per person for in-studio performance attendees and $19 for Mural Concert attendees... KEXP’s approach to music event production is extremely cost-effective due to the nature of the organization, our experience and expertise, and the role we play in the music community. It would likely be cost-prohibitive for Seattle Center to self-produce or contract for event production services by a third party, effectively making these performances an impossibility for the Center otherwise.
Meanwhile, it seems like the Chihuly museum is taking public criticisms about plunking a private pay-to-play glass exhibit down on private land seriously. Here's what they propose, in addition to offering 25 percent discounted tickets for Seattle residents:
... we are fully committed to developing a program with the Seattle Center similar to downtown’s “First Thursdays”. It is our plan to take the lead and work with the Seattle Center to invite other Seattle Center Campus arts organizations to participate in a program designed to attract new audiences and generate excitement and new visits to the Campus and the surrounding neighborhoods with the goal of providing free access on a regular basis to those who can’t afford an admission ticket.
This improves on the Chihuly exhibit concept, for sure. However, the Chihuly museum also (finally) concedes in its feasibility study that 70 percent of their visitors will be out-of-town tourists, which leaves a lot to be desired in the public benefit arena. They also restate that the exhibit will be a static one—"at this time, we have not planned for an ongoing inclusion of other artists or permanently dedicating exhibition space to them." It makes you wonder how many locals will attend a First Thursday-esque event or pony up for tickets—even discounted tickets—to see the same exhibit 20 years running.