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Native American culture at the History Museum?

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Dec. 21, 2010 at 6:03 am |
December 20, 2010 10:13 am

One of the fallouts from Seattle Mayor McGinn’s announcement last week of the new Seattle Chihuly Museum is the proposed Northwest Native Cultural Center. Supported by various local professionals, the center would have given a Native American presence to the new developments at the Seattle Center, where the current Fun Forest is soon to be torn down. Instead, if the mayor’s proposal makes it through council, the Center will get a playground, green space and a 50,000 square foot tribute to glass icon Dale Chihuly, including an indoor exhibition space, glasshouse, garden and outdoor glass art.

Artist rendering of the proposed Chihuly Exhibition at the Seattle Center. Photo courtesy City of Seattle.

The NNCC hasn’t given up talking with the Seattle Center, say organizers, and director Robert Nellams is “committed to working with (them) on realizing the dream of having a more permanent Native American presence on the Seattle Center campus.” But it does seem that Chihuly has a bigger pull than the folks who have been here all along.

On the same day, the announcement was made that state budget cuts would likely close Tacoma’s Washington History Museum. How’s this for a suggestion – open up a Northwest Native Cultural Center in the grand History Museum building? Sure, it’s on Puyallup land rather than Duwamish, but the concept is bigger than a single tribe, incorporating interpretive displays, working artisans, Northwest Native art gallery, performance space and a Coast Salish-food café. With the success of the WSHM’s annual “In the Spirit” festival, surely this could work well in Tacoma? And it would make the ideal complement to the nearby Tacoma Art Museum, which despite a highly regional focus doesn’t have much in the way of Native art.

Nobody’s making any plans yet to move the idea to T-town, says spokesperson Rita Cipalla. But when the Chihuly Exhibition opens in early 2012 and there’s a (possibly) big empty building on Pacific Ave., things may look different.

For more information on the NNCC, visit their Facebook site at www.facebook.com/nativecenter.

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