The Walter Soboleff Center

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Funding Received: 2013
Juneau, AK
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 28, 2014

By Mary Richey

Brief Update
Spring has arrived in Alaska! Sealaska Heritage Institute has been busy planning our bi-annual Celebration – a cultural celebration where individuals, families, clans and communities participate in traditional song and dance, arts/crafts, and educational activities. It is the largest gathering of Alaska Native peoples in the State of Alaska and listed as one of Anchorage Daily News’ “top 10 things to do.” We are also planning and hosting summer camps, workshops, trainings, and more over the next few months.

Construction has been moving swiftly with the exterior of the building nearly complete, the cedar panels and windows in place, and steel framing complete. The awnings on the outside of the building will be put in place in the coming months, followed by paint, flooring, tiling, and other finishes.

Photo by Brian Wallace[/caption]

One of the largest challenges to date has been determining and deciding upon the finishes that will make the Walter Soboleff Center the world renowned attraction that we envision it to be: from the artwork and tile reminiscent of ancient basketry patterns, to the paint colors and floor colorings. Working tirelessly to ensure each and every element compliments the others has been a struggle, but in a good way. To expedite this, we have a small committee of two who make these decisions with the larger philosophical vision/goal in mind. This significantly reduces the time it takes to reach consensus and allows for quick responses to the architectural and construction contractors without holding up any vital functions that may lead to delays and invariably increased costs.

Photo by Christy Eriksen Photo by Christy Eriksen[/caption]

Another challenge has been space for artists working on pieces for the Walter Soboleff Center. While the Walter Soboleff Center has an area that will provide artists an open and protected space while they carve, this isn’t quite yet available. Because of this, all artwork has to be done off site.

Recent Wins
We recently made the front page of the paper with an update on the Walter Soboleff Center. The article explained the uses of the center and will help inform locals of the many different uses for the new facility.  We also recently entered into an agreement with Perseverance Theater helping to bring in Vera Starbard, a Tlingit and Dena’ina Athabascan playwright, to Juneau. Starbard is the author of Our Voices will be Heard and will be putting on a workshop for adult theatre artists. Partnerships like this help us reach multiple mediums of art and reach a larger audience of people.

A major goal of SHI is to establish Juneau as the Northwest Coast Art Capital of the World. Our building will be a piece of art in and of itself; however, we are simultaneously working to make it a place of gathering for artists and community. To do this, we created an Artist in residence, a gallery, a carving bay and have expanded our Jinet Retail Store to sell and create a market for Northwest Coast Artists. These elements will assist SHI in its mission of creating a market for artists and bringing our art programs full circle from art study, training, and refinement; to art creation and sale. Additionally, we plan on making the Walter Soboleff Center a destination for visitors to understand, learn, and appreciate the richness of Northwest Coast Art.