The Sitka Spruce Celtic Dancers practice in a newly renovated dance studio of historic Richard H. Allen Memorial Hall. As the physical elements of campus revitalization proceed, new doors are opened to other organizations and new opportunities for our community.

The Sitka Spruce Celtic Dancers practice in a newly renovated dance studio of historic Richard H. Allen Memorial Hall. As the physical elements of campus revitalization proceed, new doors are opened to other organizations and new opportunities for our community.

Alaska Arts Southeast is transforming a closed National Historic Landmark college into a multidimensional arts campus, bringing new life to rural Southeast Alaska.

Here, Chelsea Andreozzi, Program Administrator of the Arts Campus, talks about the sustainability of the project and how they plan to develop in the future.

How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after your ArtPlace grant? Have new options for sustainability emerged during the grant period?

In our discussion last fall, we described the catch-22 of needing to simultaneously develop our campus to support programs and develop programs to support our campus. Community support in the form of both monetary contributions and thousands of volunteer hours proved to be the initial catalyst to escape from this impasse. Our $350,000 ArtPlace grant enabled us to challenge ourselves further and to invite others along with us.

The resurrection of campus facilities has opened up opportunities for numerous arts organizations. For example, the Sitka Spruce Celtic Dancers practice in new dance studios in Allen Hall. The building is still an active construction site, but the dancers are undeterred. Stepping around scaffolding is a small inconvenience for a group previously without sufficient studio space.

One of our primary campus partners is the Island Institute. They are a nonprofit devoted to fostering the literary arts and community engagement. In addition to utilizing our facilities for office space, the Island Institute regularly draws the community to the campus for readings and other events. Whether the speaker is a distinguished author in residence or a high school student presenting her poetry for the first time, we are delighted to find that our facilities are ideal spaces for the community to share in the arts.

Visitors to our campus should not be surprised by the sounds of drumming. A rock band practices in the newly heated Yaw Arts Center. Visitors may also stumble upon a community theater rehearsal. In a small island community where building space is limited, we are fortunate to have a campus that can provide affordable rental space to nonprofits. Our campus provides a home for these organizations, and in return the rental income supports the cost of maintaining the facilities. Together, we grow.

Will this work live beyond the grant period? How has this work affected the work you will do beyond the grant period?

The achievement of major renovation needs has created room for increased focus on program development. The Yaw Art Center has hosted our fledgling After School Art program since last fall, but capacity was limited by the physical limitations of an unheated building in Alaska. The art teachers stopped by hours before classes to set up space heaters, but even that had limited effect. A few weeks ago, we installed heat pumps in the Yaw Art Center. Each classroom has its own controls, heating the building both efficiently and effectively. Our art teachers are now resuming After School Art classes in warmer rooms, and they have included a nighttime drawing class for adults!

Further developments are on the horizon. Psychological theories offer the concept of a ‘hierarchy of needs’ guiding human motivation. At the most basic level is physiological need, such as the need for food, water, and shelter. Someone who has fulfilled their more basic needs can devote attention and resources to more complex needs, such as social relationships and personal growth. This is analogous to the state of our campus revitalization. Now that we are no longer preoccupied with insulating the building and keeping the roof on, we can consider the infrastructural developments. We are in the process of hiring an AmeriCorps VISTA to develop capacity for our year-round arts programs. We can devote more resources to cultivating new relationships and program opportunities. We can spend less time building facilities, and spend more time building financial aid resources for local youths. We can welcome more people into our new home.

The Sitka Spruce Celtic Dancers practice in a newly renovated dance studio of historic Richard H. Allen Memorial Hall. As the physical elements of campus revitalization proceed, new doors are opened to other organizations and new opportunities for our community.

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