Sealaska Heritage Institute is planning on building an Alaska Native “art park” in the Sealaska Plaza parking lot in downtown Juneau.
Rosita Worl, President of Sealaska Heritage Institute, made the announcement Thursday during the annual Juneau Economic Development Council Innovation Summit at Centennial Hall.
She presented conceptual drawings of the park, which is slated to be built ahead of the 2022 Celebration, the biennual event in Juneau that celebrates Alaska Native culture.
While nothing is set in stone, the park could feature totem poles and other large monuments with a tribal house on the property. All art will be Alaska Native pieces. The hope, Worl said, is to have the area act as both a working area and a showcase space.
So far it has only been referred to as “Native Arts Park,” but a name has not been made official. This would mark a second art park, along with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska “cultural immersion park,” set to also be open in the next few years in Juneau.
“We have the plans; we have the land (donated by Sealaska Corporation) and we need a little more funding,” she said. “We have a proposal for U.S. Sen. (Lisa) Murkowski. We know the state doesn’t have any money, but we are going to ask for a small donation for the park.”
Worl believes the park — estimated to cost $8.4 million — could be completed in less than five years. There is no set groundbreaking date. Sealaska Corporation purchased the land on which Walter Soboleff Building was constructed and donated another $1 million for the project; Sealaska Corp. has also authorized the transfer of its parking lot for the construction of the park, according to Worl.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is the nonprofit arm of Sealaska Corporation, a for-profit, Alaska Native-owned economic development and resource management corporation. SHI administers Sealaska’s cultural and educational programs.
“We will probably not have it ready for the 2020 Celebration, but we hope to have it finished by the 2022 Celebration,” Worl explained.
Worl has confidence in her team to move forward quickly as long as everything goes to plan.
“We have the potential, and we have the experience to go through with this,” Worl said. “This is a ‘shovel-ready’ project.”
The focus will be on Alaska Native tribes with the goal of acquiring significant pieces standing out from each tribe.
“We want the pieces to be icons,” she said.
While the parks are just in the drawing phase, Worl said something will stand out during this year’s Celebration, which is taking place June 6-9 in Juneau.
“We will have three bronze poles raised outside of Sealaska,” she said. “It gives us something concrete.”
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