Sitka Arts CampusSitka, AK
Alaska Arts Southeast will transform a closed National Historic Landmark college into a multidimensional arts campus, bringing new life to rural Southeast Alaska. ArtPlace spoke with Roger Schmidt, director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, about the new initiative:
ARTPLACE: What has been the thorniest issue you’ve faced to date? How have you dealt with it?
SCHMIDT: The single most challenging issue we are facing right now is that the USDA has decided to foreclose on a building that is owned by our organization and is critical to our project. This building is the only building on Campus with large enough rooms to hold our band and orchestra classes during our summer camps. We have been working on a solution with the USDA to solve the debt the College left unpaid when it closed.
Unfortunately negotiations have fallen apart. We recently found a private benefactor who was willing to provide us a low interest loan to pay the college’s entire debt owed to the USDA. Much to our confusion and surprise the USDA has refused the offer at this point. We are bewildered as to what they want and what their motivation is and continue to actively seeking a solution through every avenue we can find.
Another issue that we have been spent a lot of time looking for the right solution to is how to heat the buildings of the former college campus that now longer have heat after the central steam system was de-comissioned.
Jim Rehfeldt is one the Alaska’s leading engineers in commercial efficient energy solutions. He offered to help solve our problem with Allen Memorial Hall and came up with a solution using energy efficient air to air heat pumps. Jim volunteered, which then inspired the local contractor to also donate a portion of his labor costs and the supplier to discount the equipment. Allen Memorial Hall was used as a theater during the summer. After the heating system is installed, we will be able to use it all year long.
PHOTO: The photo at the top of this article shows heat pumps being installed. As Schmidt notes, “I imagine this picture looks quite boring to anyone else, but I have been working since last May to get these things here and start getting them installed so when I look at them they are virtually radiant! I can even hear a hollywood soundtrack with french horns soaring.”