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Story Last modified at 12:07 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alaska Fine Arts Academy pursues funding for new facility

By Sean Manget
Alaska Journal of Commerce

Those who enjoy food fights should gear up for one of the Alaska Fine Arts Academy's upcoming fundraising efforts: a tomato-tossing booth, with academy president Robert Croley serving as the unfortunate recipient of "vegetable justice."

"I'll be wearing a football helmet with goggles," Croley said.

The toss will be part of the academy's upcoming fall festival, which will be held in either late September or early October, Croley said.

The academy will also be putting on theater performances during the upcoming 2011 Bear Paw Festival, which runs July 6 through July 10.

Participants in the academy's summer theater conservatory will be performing in "Operation Wake Up Sleeping Beauty" July 8 and 9, and the show will run for three weeks, Croley said.

The academy will also participate in the festival's parade, Croley said.

Though the academy maintain its operations at a facility above the Alaska Industrial Hardware store on the Old Glenn Highway north of Eagle River Loop Road, academy officials have long sought greener pastures.

But to build a new facility on land it already owns elsewhere in Eagle River, the nonprofit organization will need to raise $3 million to $5 million, at a minimum, officials said.

"I would expect that the entire campus could conceivably be more than that," Croley said.

The academy offers numerous classes to its students, in categories ranging from theater and music to art and photography.

The academy was established in the early 1980s.

To teach theater to the students, the academy is dependent upon a "black box" theater that's "basically a room with a curtain in it," Croley said.

"And it's very difficult to teach real theatre in a black-box situation," he said. The room can seat slightly fewer than 100 people, he said.

But with a new campus, officials hope to build a theater that would upgrade the experience, he said.

The new facility might encompass somewhere between five and seven buildings or more, officials said. Included would be a dance building, space for metal arts and wood arts, and a possible photography facility, among other ideas, Croley said.

Additionally, it might feature a culinary facility and a coffee shop.

The land was originally homesteaded by Arthur and Eleanor Braendel, the parents of former president and current vice-president Art Braendel. Eleanor lives there to this day, Art Braendel said, and his parentes donated the land to the academy.

Officials have maintained a fund for the building that currently contains nearly $5,000, Rollman said. They also hired a Texas-based architect to come up with site and layout ideas.

It costs between $140,000 and $150,000 to run the academy each year, Croley said. Many events the academy holds help raise funds, including jazz nights, silent auctions, talent shows and theatrical productions, among others, Rollman said.

Some grant money also fuels the academy, Croley said.

But the facility's construction will require big bucks, and so Rollman is hoping that a large donor, such as the Rasmuson Foundation or the state, will step in to fund the project.

Sean Manget can be reached at

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.