Downtown Children’s Artwalk decorates businesses, raises money for books

Downtown Children’s Artwalk decorates businesses, raises money for books

Second-year program shows off kids’ art for a cause

While businesses on Franklin Street hibernate for the winter, their windows will bear art.

This year, the Downtown Children’s Art Walk brought pictures drawn by local children depicting what bears dream about while they hibernate to local storefront windows and raised about $2,300 toward free books for children 5 and younger.

The art walk is a collaboration among Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, Juneau Economic Development Council and the Downtown Business Association. It helps businesses comply with a window-covering ordinance, display art made by local children and raise money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“We kind of looked at it as a way to help downtown businesses, but also raise funds for the Imagination Library program,” said Rachel Iafolla, an AmeriCorps volunteer with AEYC-SEA, who helped spearhead this year’s walk. “We wanted to get children’s artwork out there to show it off and kind of brighten things up.”

The program started last year, and it was the brainchild of Nikki Love, a community engagement coordinator for AEYC-SEA.

Love said it was presaged by internal artwalks AEYC had held, and it was a way to publicly remind people of the importance of early childhood education while helping seasonal businesses meet the requirement of having their windows covered in an attractive way.

“Downtown Juneau is a seasonal tourist destination; this creates occupancy issues because many businesses close during the off-season,” states the City and Borough of Juneau’s Code of Ordinances. “Upon closing, tenants and/or business owners screen windows with butcher paper or similar types of materials to convey closure. This type of treatment has a negative impact on the streetscape, including a perception of abandonment. Exterior and interior lights are also extinguished, reinforcing the sense of closure along the street.”

The ordinance states display windows shall provide year-round interest, and using newspaper boards or blank coverings are unacceptable.

That’s where the children’s art comes in.

“We put the pictures up, and they (business owners) don’t get fined,” Iafolla said.

The art was solicited from local child care centers and elementary schools with the specified theme of bears’ hibernation dreams. Pictures were then selected to adorn storefront windows and put up by AmeriCorps volunteers.

The window decorations will remain up until business owners return for the season.

Business owners paid $110 for the window covering, and the money was then donated to the Imagination Library. The program donates one book per month to children from birth to age 5.

“It gives them something to look forward to,” Iafolla said. “It helps make reading exciting.”

A total of 22 businesses participated, and some, Iafolla said, opted to donate some money too.

We ended up raising around $2,300 for Imagination Library,” Iafolla said. “So that’s a big chunk of books that goes to children all over Southeast Alaska.”

She said anyone interested in making a donation to AEYC-SEA can call (907)789-1235.

Those interested in applying for books through the Imagination Library can do so online at

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or

An art installation by young children titled “What do bears dream about when they hibernate” occupies windows of seasonal business along South Franklin Street on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

An art installation by young children titled “What do bears dream about when they hibernate” occupies windows of seasonal business along South Franklin Street on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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