Update: Chihuly, city break ground for exhibition at Seattle Center

Aug 23, 2011

What was once a Fun Forest will soon be “ Chihuly Garden and Glass.”

Artist Dale Chihuly officially broke ground today on a 1.5 acre exhibition space in the Seattle Center. The gallery will include a garden, bookstore and café. It’s set to open in the spring of 2012. Just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair.

After a couple of symbolic digs in a small patch of dirt, Chihuly described what will be the most comprehensive collection of his work.

“There will be 9 exhibition rooms and each room will have anywhere from one to 25 pieces in it. Then they’ll be small and large installations in the garden. The crowning piece will be the large sculpture in the glass house. It’ll be a piece that takes up 4500 sq feet. It’ll be the largest single sculpture I’ve ever made.”

(Below is photo gallery showing some of Chihuly's artwork similar to what will be displayed at the new exhibition.)

(See the photos on Flickr, if your mobile device doesn't support Flash.)

Chihuly’s Garden and Glass exhibit is the centerpiece of the city’s redevelopment plan to make Seattle Center more vibrant, said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Other changes will include a new home for radio station KEXP and a children’s playground.

Initially, Chihuly’s exhibit faced strong opposition for being just another privately owned business at the center.  But projections of more than a million dollars a year in revenue, convinced the City Council to back the project.

Funding details, partnerships

The "Chihuly Garden and Glass" exhibition is privately funded by Center Art, a company of the owners of the Space Needle. In the deal arranged with the city, the new space will not cost the city anything and will not compete for support with donor bases of local arts organizations, according to a press release.

The project has also partnered with several local non-profit organizations including Pratt Fine Arts Center, Pilchuck Glass School, and ArtsFund, as well as the Seattle Public Schools.  One of the project’s primary goals, said the release by Center Art, is to further arts education and arts engagement for youth and adults within the Seattle and Northwest community.