Dr. Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, about plans to build a Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in the current location of the Sealaska Corporation parking lot. SHI this week received word that it received a federal grant of more than $5.6 million for the $12 million project, which, along with donations and grants from other sources, puts the project at 70 percent toward its funding goal. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dr. Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, about plans to build a Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in the current location of the Sealaska Corporation parking lot. SHI this week received word that it received a federal grant of more than $5.6 million for the $12 million project, which, along with donations and grants from other sources, puts the project at 70 percent toward its funding goal. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

New downtown arts campus could break ground by June 2020

Sealaska Heritage Institute awarded federal grant for project

Sealaska Heritage Institute is launching a fundraising campaign to build a new arts campus with most of the money needed already in hand.

The nonprofit for protecting and promoting Alaska Native arts and cultures announced Wednesday it received a federal grant of more than $5.6 million to be used for the construction of the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus to be located at the current Sealaska Corporation parking lot.

The federal grant, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, along with donations and other grants means the project is now at slightly more than 70 percent — $8.5 million — of its $12 million funding goal, according to SHI. The project, which would include classrooms, maker spaces and more was initially conceived as a more modest arts park, SHI President Dr. Rosita Worl told the Empire.

Sealaska Heritage Institute announced Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, it is raising money to build a Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in the current location of the Sealaska Corporation parking lot. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sealaska Heritage Institute announced Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, it is raising money to build a Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in the current location of the Sealaska Corporation parking lot. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“It evolved from an arts park to an arts campus because of our arts programming,” Worl said. “We had this vision to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital. We also want to make Northwest Coast arts a national treasure.”

The goal is to break ground on the project during Celebration 2020, according to SHI. The biennial celebration of Southeast Alaska Native Culture is scheduled for June 10-13.

Since the project would be built on the site of an existing parking lot, parking will be moved underground into a garage similar to the one at the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum.

The underground structure will provide the exact same number of parking spaces as currently exist above ground, according to SHI, and current designs would add nine spaces on the surface. Current parking spaces are designated for employees and will remain as such, according to SHI, and there have not been discussions about implementing public paid parking.

This conceptual art depicts what Heritage Square would look like after the completion of a proposed Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. (Courtesy Photo | MRV Architects)

This conceptual art depicts what Heritage Square would look like after the completion of a proposed Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. (Courtesy Photo | MRV Architects)

The arts campus is intended to include indoor and outdoor space that will provide artists room to make pieces such as totem poles and canoes, performing arts and Alaska Native art markets. Classrooms, an art library and space for artists-in-residence are also planned.

A lot of artwork is also planned for the campus, including a totem pole and five monumental bronze masks representing Iñupiat; Yup’ik; Athabaskan; Alutiiq and Unangan; and Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

“Part of our mission is promoting cross-cultural understanding,” Worl said. “What better way to do that than having an arts park here? It’s a symbol of our whole culture, and it just seemed like the perfect thing to do.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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