Carol Tuynman
The sculpture garden.

The Alaska Arts Confluence has big plans for the sculpture garden in Fort Seward.

The Arts Confluence signed a 15-year lease with Port Chilkoot Co., the owner of the burned-out Fort Seward barracks that houses the garden.

The lease took effect July 1.

“With the signing of the lease, that has enabled us to push ahead with the development,” said Roger Gentry, president of the Arts Confluence.

The plans for the garden are ambitious, if somewhat nebulous.

The future design is based roughly on a plan by former resident Libby Jacobson, who used the sculpture garden as a project for her degree in landscape design at California State Polytechnic University. But, Gentry said, the design is still up for discussion. The Arts Confluence hopes to integrate the space with the future Portage Cove Trail, add a courtyard to host future markets and performances, and install a botanical component with the addition of indigenous plants.

“The underlying thing is the revitalization of Fort Seward,” said Carol Tuynman, Arts Confluence creative director.

The sculpture garden will inaugurate the new space with its first farmers market on First Friday, August 2. “We’re happy to use this great community art space to showcase the produce,” said farmers market manager Vija Pelekis.

The garden currently houses 11 sculptures, which were installed in 2015 and 2016 with the help of a 2014 grant from ArtPlace America. But since 2016, the garden has been in a state of limbo, while the arts confluence and Port Chilkoot Co. were bogged down in negotiations over the lease.

Now that they hold the lease, Gentry said, the Arts Confluence can embark on fundraising projects, including applying for grants. “If we didn’t have the lease, there were serious restrictions on what we could raise,” he said.

Gentry has a goal of $1 million for the garden’s renovations. The nonprofit has started to apply for grants and plans to start a fundraising program in the next few weeks.

Work parties to clean up the garden are scheduled for July 13, 14 and 16, and the organization is seeking volunteers to help with the process. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Arts Confluence at 766-3715.