Envisioning Our Future Through the Reflections of Our Past
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Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is fundraising for the second phase of its vision to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital of the world and to designate Northwest Coast art a national treasure.
In phase two, SHI will build its Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in Juneau at Front and Seward Streets, an area designated as Heritage Square by the City and Borough of Juneau in 2018. The space, currently a private parking lot, is directly across the street from SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, which was built during phase one and opened in 2015. Sealaska donated the parking lot to SHI in 2019 and, through the project, parking will move underground, opening a new cultural space for Juneau residents and visitors at a prime location in downtown. The campus will comprise SHI’s second Box of Knowledge in Juneau.
The campus, which will encompass approximately 6,000 square feet, will house indoor and outdoor space for artists to make monumental Northwest Coast art pieces, such as totem poles and canoes; classrooms for art programming and instruction in areas such as basketry and textile weaving and print making; and space for performances, Native art markets, an art library, artists-in-residence, faculty, and public gatherings. Instruction will be offered for both non-credit and credit for students seeking art degrees through SHI partners, the University of Alaska Southeast and the Institute of American Indian Arts. It will also have capabilities for distance learning.
The overall design will incorporate the same traditional and contemporary themes as in the Walter Soboleff Building with art adorning the facility. The campus will include a totem pole and five monumental bronze masks representing Alaska’s major cultural groups called “Faces of Alaska.” The street and plaza will also include artistic designs tying them to Heritage Square.
SHI’s goals for the campus are to expand Alaska Native and Northwest Coast art programming to ensure perpetuation of these ancient art practices, which are unique in the world and include some practices that are endangered; support Native artists through art markets and classes; and to offer a space where the general public can learn about Alaska Native cultures and art forms at a preeminent space in downtown.