Protestors claim Chihuly exhibit is violating lease with Seattle

SEATTLE -- The one-year anniversary celebration of the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit turned into a protest on Tuesday, with demonstrators claiming the famed glass artist is violating his lease agreement with the city.

More than a dozen local artists, workers and labor union representatives showed up on Tuesday to make it clear they're boycotting the exhibit.

"Yeah, they sold everybody a bill of goods," said protest organizer Jasmine Marwaha.

Marwaha claims prior to building the exhibit on public land, Chihuly officials made several promises to the city that they didn't keep.

She said Chihuly was supposed to create a public space for artists and offer extra work to banquet workers at the Space Needle, among other promises.

"The banquet workers right now struggle to make full time hours," Marwaha said.

She also said Chihuly is violating the lease by not building a $1 million children's playground and not giving away 10,000 free tickets to the exhibit.

Chihuly executive director Michelle Bufano insists the exhibit is meeting its requirements, including donating more than 10,000 tickets to under-served groups.

"I can tell you we have met or exceeded all of the obligations under our lease," she said.

Bufano also said a new children's playground will be revealed in July. As for the public space for artists, Bufano said that was never part of the deal.

"It's definitely not in our lease agreement and not a promise that we made," she said.

The protestors say Chihuly's art is great, but the exhibit isn't providing enough public benefit. That's something Bufano said they're always trying to improve on.

"Just finding opportunities to connect with our community, and opportunities to bring in people that wouldn't be able to come," she said.