Hats off to Chilkat Center supporters for their efforts to improve the building, including this Saturday’s gala featuring musicians from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Our arts center is one of several outstanding Haines Borough facilities needing love in the form of maintenance that’s been deferred too long. Let’s give it some.
An engineer’s inspection of the center a few years ago identified a long list of needs, including roof and structural improvements, and electrical and heating upgrades. A volunteer-driven professional survey of the building’s auditorium last winter generated a separate list of needed improvements to the performance hall.
Now it’s just a matter of chipping away at those lists, and no better way to start than a show featuring world-class musicians in a hall that’s been hailed as one of Alaska’s finest intimate venues.
There’s been some talk by public officials that the center is a doomed elephant, too big, inefficient and antiquated to be saved. The real question for us is, what is the alternative? Do we allow the building to decay and its components to become obsolete? Will we abandon the building and hold concerts in the high school gym? Will we try to build a new public auditorium to replace it?
Today, those seem like bad options. The borough needs work on its schools and probably a new fire hall and police station. With less money available for projects from the state and federal governments, it’s unlikely the Haines Borough will be building a new performance hall anytime soon.
And if there is a savior on the horizon who will swoop in and fund the major improvements the center needs, it’s unlikely that person or entity would take action if residents aren’t already working to shore up the structure.
The Foundation for the Chilkat Center is on the right track with its new round of fund-raising efforts. If there’s a lesson we should have learned from the demolition of the former elementary school gym, it’s that we shouldn’t abandon usable public buildings until we know we can replace them.
Saturday’s show, “A Late-Summer Night’s Dream,” begins at 7 p.m.
The morning after a big night of karaoke recently, I walked into a local laundromat to find three musicians in a jam session. It seems that Haines is blooming with musicians, especially in the summertime.
What’s more, events like the state fair and the recent KHNS-sponsored concert demonstrate that residents of Skagway, Juneau and Whitehorse, Y.T. like coming here for music.
Certainly there are ways we can begin to exploit these “natural resources” to our benefit. A summer weekend concert series at the Chilkat Center might be one idea.
We have local and visiting musicians and plenty of great places for them to play. The Haines Chamber of Commerce and tourism department might start looking at music as another calling card for our community.
-- Tom Morphet