Sealaska Heritage secures federal grant for downtown arts campus

This rendering by MRV Architects shows an unfinalized concept for Sealaska Heritage Institute’s downtown arts campus. It accompanied a Sept. 18, 2019, announcement about securing a federal grant for the project. (Courtesy Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Sealaska Heritage Institute announced Wednesday that it will receive a federal grant for $5.6 million to build out its vision for an arts campus in downtown Juneau.

The cultural nonprofit estimates the project will cost $12 million and hopes to break ground in June 2020, during Celebration. It would turn the parking lot at the corner of Front and Seward streets into a plaza, connecting new buildings with the regional Native corporation’s headquarters and the institute’s Walter Soboleff Building.

“We are thrilled to officially kick off the fundraising campaign for our arts campus, which is a major component of our vision to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital of the world,” SHI President Rosita Worl said in a press release. “Our campus will be a major step toward perpetuating Alaska’s Native arts for Native Peoples’ personal and ceremonial use as well as for the general public.”

The new buildings are intended to house classrooms for art instruction, an art library and space for artists-in-residence.

The announcement says parking that serves the Sealaska Corp.’s headquarters will move underground.

Juneau city officials named the Front and Seward street intersection Heritage Square last year amid an artistic redesign. The campus project is part of an institute goal to make Juneau the world capital of Northwest Coast arts.

With this grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the institute says it’s about 70% to its goal for this project. The institute is asking for donations for the project online.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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