Alaska showcase in New York needs money

Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Legislative leaders are debating whether to use public money to keep the nonprofit Alaska House, New York open, now that the woman who initially funded it can't afford to keep it open.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that Alice Rogoff met with an assistant of Gov. Sean Parnell last week and asked for $600,000 for public relations and economic development marketing.

Rogoff, who co-founded the house in September 2008 and serves as its chairman, said it will have to close if the money isn't found.

"I did this because I thought it was really important, not just for the state in the big picture, but for the sake of village life and subsistence and native people whose livelihoods are dependent on so much of this state's economy continuing to flourish," she told the newspaper.

Alaska House hosted a series of programs during the past year on Alaska issues and arts, with Native American art for sale in the gallery. Its proposal for next year includes regular "Alaska Nights" with films, performers, athletes and others from the state.

House Speaker Mike Chenault said it's unusual for lawmakers to be asked to fund a nonprofit out of state.

"If all we're doing is providing a job or two for somebody in New York, I'm not really interested in it," he said.

"But if a lot of artisans and others are being able to utilize that service to sell their products in New York, then, for what Alaskans are receiving, is that a good investment for that kind of money?"

Senate President Gary Stevens said it's a great venue for Alaskan artists and issues.

"The question is, should there be state money and if so, how much?"

Stevens said he was impressed by an Alaska House event he spoke at in September, for which he was reimbursed $1,928 by the state for travel and expenses.

Rogoff, who has a home in Anchorage and is registered to vote in Alaska, said she opened Alaska House, New York after seeing a fundamental lack of understanding about the state.

She declined to specify how much she has put into it, saying her personal finances are private.

Rogoff said she never intended to carry the operation herself and that her plan was to raise around $1 million a year for its operation, but the house opened the same day Lehman Brothers went under and the financial industry collapsed.

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