Ketchikan artists plan Native wax museum

Exhibits would show traditional weapons, art, ways of gathering food

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan artists and retailers want to establish a Southeast Alaska Native wax museum north of Ketchikan to depict what life was like for the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian people hundreds of years ago.

Business owner and artist Marvin McCloud is leading efforts to build a 117,000-square-foot museum.

The three-story museum would feature wax figures, along with reproductions of tools, weapons and art, McCloud said. It also would feature dwellings carved from high-density balsa foam.

The museum proposal also calls for exhibits about cedar-bark weaving, war canoes and how Native people gathered and cooked traditional foods.

The project is in the early stages, but McCloud estimated it will cost between $14 million and $17 million. He expects the museum to be up and running within five years.

McCloud said the project has won the interest of several private investors. Organizers also are pursuing grant funding, he said.

The museum would not display figures of famous people in wax, McCloud said.

"What I envision is completely different than what I've ever seen as far as museums go," he said.

The project is geared to tourists, but would be open year-round for education purposes, McCloud said. Art demonstrations and dance performances would be offered.

McCloud envisions the museum running as a self-supporting nonprofit, while a gift shop and fast-food restaurant on the first floor would be operated as for-profit businesses, McCloud said.

The first floor would have space for 25 to 30 carvers, weavers, silversmiths and other artists to sell their wares, he said.

Local Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida artists are involved in the museum proposal. McCloud, who is an artist and part Cherokee, owns a store called McCloud Nine of Alaska that sells glass etchings, paintings and jewelry.

McCloud hopes to build the museum on borough land in the Mud Bay area and is pursuing a lease with a purchase option.

"We're not looking for any funding from the borough," he told the Ketchikan Daily News. "We're not asking for a handout."

Ketchikan Gateway Borough staff has recommended a 20-year lease with annual rent of approximately 8 percent to 10 percent of the appraised value per year. The lease would need to go out to bid.

No government funding is involved in the project, Borough Manager Roy Eckert said.

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