After a year sharing board members with the Kenai Fine Arts Guild, the Kenai Arts and Humanities Council is seeking to rebuild its own board of directors.
President Ricky Gease said that is the first step in working toward construction of the proposed Alaska Center for Arts and Education.
"If you think about a new arts education facility for the central peninsula, it's a major undertaking," he said. "We would have to jump through all federal and state hoops seeking grant money."
He said he would ultimately like to see the council have a paid coordinator or executive director who could handle the nuts and bolts of grant applications and administration. If that happens, support could be had from organizations such as the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., that already is involved with the annual summer arts camp for educators at Kenai Peninsula College.
But to have an executive director, the organization -- already a federally registered nonprofit -- needs a board.
"We have a seated board, but it's minimal," Gease said. "Right now we're trying to give it new life and capitalize on the momentum of last spring's meetings about an arts education center."
At a late afternoon Thursday meeting, attended by about 30 artists and others interested in the arts, Gease outlined the council's purpose and activities. It is designed to promote and provide art education, exhibitions and performances, as well as making financial donations to art organizations.
Gease said he has realistic expectations for forming a new board. While the bylaws allow for up to 15 members, he said he'd be lucky to get a dozen applicants.
"I think people think it's a real time commitment to sit on boards," he said. "A lot of worthwhile people get involved with boards, but how many can you be involved with? How much time can you spend on your public life? It's a balancing act."
Jean Brockel of Soldotna, who has served on the council in the past, said a new board can be seated and will thrive.
"The boards have done this in the past," she said. "It just takes a few people who devote some time and energy to it. A few live-wire people can make this thing go."
Brockel said she reminded people at the meeting that the arts have always been alive and well in the central Kenai Peninsula.
"One of the things that can happen with an organization like this is people can stay right here at home and enjoy art in a lot of areas, such as visual and performing arts," she said.
Brockel said as long as people exercise common sense, an arts education center can be supported in the community.
"Why not? The area is growing and will continue to grow," she said.
Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Kathy Tarr spoke about how the arts can contribute to the local economy and quality of life, which could attract new businesses to the community.
"Central peninsula arts programs and activities are all about quality of life," she said. "It's hard to separate each other."
She said an arts education center could bring children (and their families), adults, teachers and arts professionals together in Kenai during the summer though art camps.
"Arts are more than just frills," Tarr said. "I really believe it's an economic benefit."
She said she plans to pitch the arts at the Feb. 3 Kenai Economic Development Forum.
"I know the city administration and council are overwhelmed with the mechanics of running the city, but I think there will be some dialog looking at arts and culture and about what it can do for the city," she said. "It speaks a lot for the city of Kenai that Mayor John Williams and Vice Mayor Linda Swarner attended our meeting. It says the city is opening its eyes to new possibilities."
Tarr said some cities have arts and cultural commissions and have much more public art than in the central peninsula, and she would like to see that changed.
The next step in the evolution of the Kenai Arts and Humanities Council is accepting applications and letters of interest from people wishing to be considered for the board of directors. Applications are available at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
Feb. 16 is the deadline for submitting applications. Shortly after that, Gease said, the existing board will review them and invite people to join them.
"We're interested in people with a vision to use the arts as a vehicle to enhance the quality of life and economy here."
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