Sealaska Heritage Institute Begins Move into Walter Soboleff Center

Native art expert and teacher Steve Brown created the formline on the glass awnings encircling the Walter Soboleff Center. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Native art expert and teacher Steve Brown created the formline on the glass awnings encircling the Walter Soboleff Center. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Sealaska Heritage Institute started moving into its new home in the yet-to-be-opened Walter Soboleff Center this week.

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Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger hopes Sealaska Heritage Institute will be relocated by the end of January. The grand opening of the Walter Soboleff Center is May 15.

“Next door will be our new home,” Kadinger says from his current office at One Sealaska Plaza. “So every time you hear we’re having a Native Lecture Series, it’ll be at Sealaska Heritage. Every time you hear that we’re having weaving classes, it’ll be at Sealaska Heritage. Everything that we do isn’t going to be scattered around in different places or classrooms or meeting rooms; it’ll be at Sealaska Heritage.”

The building will have space for art exhibits, demonstrations and education. The main collections vault will be in the basement, the retail shop on the first floor, Sealaska Heritage offices on the second and office rental space on the third.

In the very center of the building, visible as soon as you enter, is a traditional clan house.

“If we want to have lectures in there, if we want to have presentation in there, if we want to have smaller performances in there – it’s really a flexible space. It’s a multiuse space and it’s an educational space,” Kadinger says.

The clan house front will be carved and painted by Tsimshian artist David A. Boxley. The inside will feature a carved glass house screen and two house posts depicting Eagle and Raven warriors made by Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary.

Other permanent art work includes 40-foot panels by Haida artist Robert Davidson that will go on the building’s cedar-clad exterior.

Formline design expert Steve Brown created the glass sidewalk awnings that are already installed.

Having raised around $20 million for the construction of the Walter Soboleff Center, Sealaska Heritage continues to fundraise for added artwork and exhibits. Kadinger says more than a thousand individuals, businesses and organizations have already donated.