Flags fly outside the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday. The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which operates the center, is celebrating its 50 anniversary Thursday with music, food and other events from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Flags fly outside the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Tuesday. The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which operates the center, is celebrating its 50 anniversary Thursday with music, food and other events from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

JAHC celebrates 50th birthday with performances, food and awards Thursday

Council’s role in local arts and culture has expanded in imaginative ways over five decades

When the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council turns 50 on Thursday the music from party attendees will be a lot more expansive than “Happy Birthday.”

JAHC is scheduled to celebrate its golden anniversary from 4:30-8:30 p.m. at the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus with performances, food vendors and a ceremony honoring recently announced winners of the Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy Awards for the Arts. Among the scheduled performers representing a broad range of Juneau’s cultures and eras are the Yees Ku Oo Dancers, Rio Alberto of Perseverance Theatre, the newly formed band The Flukes, and longtime Juneau blues stalwart Annie Bartholomew.

In addition, some of JAHC’s most prominent leaders during the past five decades will share experiences about the organization’s ever-growing role in organizing and collaborating on local events and programs, said Phil Huebshen, who was named JAHC’s new executive director in January, in an interview Tuesday. He said during its early years JAHC was “more of a presenting organization.”

“It was more focused on solely bringing different musicians to Juneau to perform and just kind of widening our kind of musical experiences in that way as a town and community,” he said. “Since then it’s really evolved to be more expansive, more focused on community initiatives and artwork, and empowering individual artists and other organizations in Juneau and Southeast Alaska in partnership with the city on the granting process that we work on them with every year.”

A historical narrative by the local nonprofit The Partnership notes JAHC was founded in 1973 in a downtown basement.

“One small room served as a gallery and the Council hosted monthly visual arts exhibits there, along with sponsoring a program of performing arts events in various venues around town,” the narrative states.

Today JAHC’s mission and strategy statement features a long list of events, arts education, economic growth, facility management and other programs. Examples of events its affiliated with are First Fridays, the Wearable Arts show and Rock Aak’w Festival; education programs are coordinated with entities such as the Juneau School District and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation; and it operates Centennial Hall where landmark events such as the Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Public Market take place.

“Our programs touch lives over 1,235,000 times during the year,” the mission statement notes.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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