Juneau has a rich artistic and cultural history, dating back millennia for indigenous peoples and to the founding of the mining camp in 1880 that became the town we know today. Since the mid-1970s the community has collectively considered the need for and practical means of building a performing arts and community center that is capable of meeting the incredible demand for artistic and cultural space in Alaska’s capital city. In November of 2007 the ribbon was cut on the existing Juneau Arts &Culture Center (JACC), the former National Guard Armory, launching what has been a decade of intense use and love by Juneau residents.
I served on the Juneau Performing Arts Center Commission (PACC) from 2004 through 2008, at the end of which period we recommended to the leadership of the City &Borough of Juneau (CBJ) that a new facility be built on the site of the existing JACC. The PACC had enlisted the service of professional consultants and carefully and thoroughly communicated with a wide array of arts organizations to devise a specific plan, which resulted in a recommendation for a facility much larger than is currently proposed. The PACC also recommended that a new group be brought together to conduct a capital campaign to make this vision a reality.
Since the PACC’s recommendations, a separate nonprofit corporation was created with the specific goal of making a new JACC a reality. The Partnership, Inc., exists to tailor final plans for a new facility reflecting realistic use and budgetary constraints and then to raise the funds necessary to demolish the old JACC and build the New JACC in as timely a manner as possible. The new plans conservatively and prudently are for a 300-seat main theatre, and a smaller “black box” with other features that will ensure maximum use and benefit for the community. The Partnership will have a finite existence, and once its important work is done, it will dissolve and the management of the New JACC will fall to the Juneau Arts &Humanities Council (JAHC), Juneau’s local arts agency.
The New JACC project has in the past year gained increasing momentum as the Partnership has forthrightly pursued a multi-faceted fundraising campaign. The overall fundraising strategy relies on money coming from corporate and foundation supporters, but it is contributions from individual Juneau residents and other supportive Alaskans that will serve as the cornerstone of the effort.
The New JACC will cost approximately $26 million and as 2017 comes to an end over 75 individuals have each contributed sums in excess of $10,000 toward the desired outcome. While some of these donations have been much greater than $10,000, there are 44 pledges at this specific amount as part of the Groundbreaker Campaign. Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money but the campaign has been structured to make it accessible and realistic for regular people to take part. Groundbreakers pledge to pay $1000 initially, and commit to three installments of $3000 for the following three years. Those installments may be paid in whatever way works best for the individual Groundbreaker, from automatic monthly payments of $250 to lump-sum transfers at the end of each year. Groundbreakers include individuals, families and local businesses and there is room to join the club.
The efforts of the entire community will make the New JACC a reality, and discrete donations will range from $25 up to millions of dollars. But Groundbreakers have an opportunity to focus the overall campaign and provide it with essential central force and strength at a pivotal time in this decades-long effort. Foundation and corporate supporters are eager to see that the thriving heart of Alaska’s capital city is behind the New JACC project, and Groundbreakers illustrate this truth so effectively. The Partnership and JAHC Boards earnestly hope to see more Groundbreakers join the ranks before the end of the year, both for the essential funds and for the boost they provide to the collective effort.
The New JACC will become a reality not only because of donations by Groundbreakers but because of the collective will and support of the entire community. Donations will be made in all monetary ranges and through in-kind forms of support as well. In the New Year more information will be forthcoming about other avenues of support. What is most important is that all Juneau residents who believe in the future of the community join in a way that works for them individually. As this happens, the New JACC becomes a wonderful inevitability.
• Benjamin Brown is a lifelong Alaskan who lives in Juneau, and is the Marketing & Development Specialist for the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council (JAHC). He served on the JAHC Board from 2003-2006, and is Chairman of the Alaska State Council on the Arts.