Despite being rejected by voters in October’s municipal election, the push to build a new Juneau Arts & Culture Center is still continuing, now with a new leader.
The Partnership Inc., the nonprofit raising funds for the proposed New JACC, on Wednesday announced it has a new executive director to lead the project: Bob Banghart.
“I just really like the project,” Banghart said when reached in Seattle by phone Wednesday. “I’ve wanted to see something like this in Juneau since I moved there in 1973. It’s personally important, and that people trust me to do this is also quite an honor.”
In October, an advisory ballot question asked voters if City and Borough of Juneau should grant the New JACC $4.5 million of the $26.4 million building. It failed 4,938-3,551.
Despite the loss at the polls, New JACC leadership quickly announced fundraising efforts would continue. Banghart said the prospect of it still happening are unchanged from his point of view.
“The vote wasn’t a referendum on the project, the vote was a referendum on city funding,” Banghart said. “We get told no periodically in various places, so we just got told no by the city and borough vote.”
Plus, he said the municipal election results show signs of support for the project.
In Douglas and all three downtown Juneau precincts, the grant received more yes than no votes, according to official election results. However, it was heavily voted against in the Lemon Creek, Auke Bay, Mendenhall Valley and Lynn Canal precincts.
“I’ve been in this game long enough that you don’t take the first no at face value,” Banghart said. “There’s just too many people that are too dedicated to this. If you look at the private donation list and the amount of money the town has raised just on its own, it’s really impressive. I’ve never seen the groundswell of support for this type of project before.”
The proposed $26.4 million project is 21% of the way toward its fundraising goal, according to The New JACC’s website. The New JACC is intended to replace the current JACC, which is an older facility with limited amenities. JAHC Executive Director Nancy DeCherney previously told the Empire the JACC has bad floors, kitchen plumbing near failing, no HVAC system and other problems.
Banghart, who said his new position was effective as of Jan. 1, is not new to leading major cultural building projects or to the push for the New JACC.
He is the principal and owner of Banghart & Associates, and from 2011 to 2017 Banghart served as Deputy Director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums for the State of Alaska in a leadership role in the development of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building. He’s also served as the program manager for the New JACC.
He replaces Katharine Heumann, who said she stepped away from the position to spend more time with her growing family.
“I’ve been doing this job for four years and in those for years, we have welcomed three grandsons to our family,” Heumann said in a phone interview. “I’m pretty distracted by grandbabies. It’s just gotten to be that’s where I want to be doing. I’ll be staying on in a different capacity to make sure Bob has all the tools he needs.”
“I feel like the project is in excellent hands and the project is moving,” she added.
Banghart said the next steps for the project include working with architects to refine elements of the project. Those don’t represent major changes for the proposed New JACC, Banghart said, but they are instead part of the process of developing a building.
“It’s a maturation,” Banghart said. “It goes from napkin sketch to real building, and there’s about eight steps in between. It’s not about changing anything.”
Public discussions are also in the works, he said, but there are not yet specific times or locations attached to the plans.
“I just kind of want to reset the image of the project in the community’s mind and just explain what it is and what it isn’t,” Banghart said. “I think its function was misconstrued just through the process of people talking about it without a lot of knowledge. It’s a very fundamental building without a lot of bells and whistles on it. More than anything, it’s to get people to recognize the building is about the arts, and it’s about education, and it’s about providing opportunities for this community to nurture what already exists to a large grade, which is a very creative community.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt