Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center executive director Lani Hotch told a crowd at the project’s annual benefit dinner Friday she hopes to open the doors at the center May 2016, but that will require raising at least $3.1 million.

Hotch outlined about $2 million in upcoming grant requests for Phase II of the project, which involves finishing the interior, completing exhibits, parking and landscaping, including an outdoor mosaic and a boardwalk.

The full bill for completion – with all the extras – is $3.9 million. “I’m thinking and trusting we’ll get the whole thing,” Hotch told the crowd.

Hotch was philosophical this week when asked if raising the amount and completing the project in 17 months was realistic. “None of this is realistic. The whole thing’s not realistic. It’s bigger than Klukwan but we’re going for it. I know we have a lot of support outside Klukwan.”

Hotch said Friday there’s about $200,000 remaining from a $3.5 million state grant that paid for the project’s Phase 1, reaching completion now with the installation of yellow cedar corner boards on the center’s exterior.

Upcoming requests will include $750,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation, $600,000 from the Murdoch Charitable Trust, $350,000 from Art Place, $150,000 from Surdna Foundation, $40,000 from the National Park Service, and $43,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Those sources would still leave the project about $1.8 million short of completion, and Hotch said this week she’ll be looking for a grant from the Alaska Legislature to help fill that gap.

“These (grant requests) are all competitive. We don’t know if we’re going to get them. We’re a small community and we’re trying to do a big thing. If you want to support the project in another way, you can write to the legislature and write to the governor,” Hotch said at the dinner.

Hotch said the center will include four major exhibits: a “cultural landscape map,” the clan house (which will incorporate historic Whale House carvings), subsistence and Chilkat weaving. Those exhibits will cost $710,000. Several grants already have been received for exhibit work including $50,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts for the cultural map and several others from the National Park Service and IMLS.

Hotch said the center’s interior contains stacks of wood and piles of wood chips from carvers using adzes, who’ll work through the winter to make wallboards for the replica clan house, using spruce beams from Klukwan. “It has special significance to us because they’re our trees and our carvers are working on it.”

The building costs $2,000 per month to heat during the winter. Hotch said contractor Dawson Construction has said completion of the center would take 6-7 months, once funding is secured. Exhibits would be installed after that, she said.

Hotch said the replica clan house, featuring the Whale House pieces, will be available for clan ceremonies. The four house posts and wall screen of the Whale House are considered some of the finest pieces of indigenous Northwest Coast art, but they won’t be under glass, Hotch said.

“It’s a new concept. We’re breaking ground on that idea. It’s not a museum. It’s a cultural center. The Ganaxteidi clan will be able to use that space for their ceremonies,” she said.

In addition to an agreement with the Ganaxteidi clan to display the Whale House pieces, JKHC has a loan agreement to use Chilkat pieces from the Strong family collection. Display of other ceremonial pieces will be dependent on agreements with respective clans that own them, Hotch said.

Besides adzing of clan house sections, projects for the upcoming winter include preparing for tours, starting to design a cultural landscape map, and writing grant proposals for the center’s Chilkat weaving and subsistence displays, Hotch said. “We’re moving toward the finish line on a 16-lane highway. We’re on a lot of different lanes and they’re beginning to converge.”