The Sitka Fine Arts Camp reached a significant milestone over the weekend.
The organization took over the core campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College on February 1, with the goal of making the buildings – which had been boarded up for nearly four years – habitable within 90 days. Alaska Arts Southeast director Roger Schmidt announced at lunchtime on Saturday April 30th that the camp – as of that afternoon – had topped 10,000 volunteer hours, and would open on schedule for 540 students beginning on June 5th.
Schmidt appeared on KCAW last Friday morning to discuss the community effort to rehabilitate the 133-year-old Sheldon Jackson Campus.
“Two more months without people getting active in those buildings and we would have been losing them. When I think about the psyche of a community, and what that would have symbolized in terms of defeat and failure and the lack of creativity and coming up with solutions. We’ve taken something that could have been a catastrophe, and by working together as a community we’re building something and creating a new opportunity. I think that’s important for people to realize: There wasn’t really another idea out there. It wasn’t, you know, We’re going to take these buildings and turn them into this and off we go, or we’re going to do this. It was, This thing is going to go down the tubes if the community doesn’t step up and jump in. So it’s a chance for the community to be in control of making a difference and saving something. In today’s day and age we need to be looking back towards ourselves as individuals and the resources we have, rather than be thinking that someone else is always going to solve the problem.”
Here’s a rundown of some of some of the work accomplished by volunteers since the takeover of the Sheldon Jackson Campus, not including the Hames Center:
–Intense cleaning, painting, roof repairs, new heating systems, and new cabinetry, carpet, and appliances for the apartments in Kellogg.
–Intense cleaning of Fraser and Whitmore in the East Quad, painting, and new heating systems, roof repairs. These buildings will be used as classrooms on the lower floor, and overflow student housing upstairs.
–Similar work has taken place on North Pacific Hall in the West Quad, including a new fire escape. North Pacific will house camp faculty upstairs.
–Stevenson Hall, on the West Quad, will house Sitka Summer Music Festival staff, and serve as rehearsal space.
–The kitchen and dining room in Sweetland Hall have been reopened. Several test meals have been prepared for volunteers on work days.
–Landscaping assessment and planning.
–The Yaw building has been converted into visual arts classrooms. A new photo lab has been installed. –The ceramics building will once again house ceramics classes, and the old SJ laundry building will house the Rock Band class.
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