Seattle Center Okays Native Cultural Center

But the group has to raise $8m before a formal commitment is made.

By Laura Dannen June 21, 2011

The proposed Northwest Native Cultural Center: Can you tell the locals from the tourists?

Though Seattle Center and city officials have already pledged to replace the aging Fun Forest with a Chihuly glass museum and KEXP office space, SC director Robert Nellams announced his support last week of a Northwest Native Cultural Center as well—if the group can raise $8 million for construction, reports.

Back in September, Seattle Met news editor Eric Scigliano called the Native cultural center a sleeper pick among Seattle Center redevelopment options: Enlisting the celebrated local architect (and Choctaw member) Johnpaul Jones gives NNCC cred: His firm Jones and Jones has designed Evergreen College’s acclaimed longhouse, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, Woodland Park’s breakthrough habitat exhibits, and dozens of other notable naturescapes and native cultural projects. Prominent artists, historians, and native groups also back NNCC. It, like the green park, would address a glaring lack—the absence of Seattle’s original cultures from its constellation of cultural attractions. And more than any other proposal, it could appeal to visitors and locals alike—a tourist magnet like the Chihuly gallery, minus the Chihuly baggage.

The two-story, 148,000-sq-ft center would resemble a longhouse and serve as both a functional meeting space and tourist destination. It’s slated to include a historical introduction to the Coast Salish people of the region, a gallery of Native artwork, Seattle’s first cafe selling Northwest Native food, a gift shop, classrooms, event space with a stage, workspace in the basement, and a landscaped terrace with a teaching garden of indigenous plants and trees. The cultural experience is one that director Nellams said Seattle Center "can and will embrace," but the NNCC organizers—recently incorporated as a nonprofit—have to secure funding before the space is theirs. Follow their campaign on the center’s Facebook page.

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