Arnold Liebelt, Candidate for Assembly, on the role of the arts

September 20, 2016

Responses to Questions

  1. Describe your involvement/participation in the arts and cultural activities in Juneau.
    1. How many times per year do you attend an arts and cultural event?
    2. What types of events do you attend?
    3. Are you a current member of any Juneau arts organizations? Which one(s)?

My wife and I have participated in the arts and cultural activities since we moved here in 1992. We attend two events a year on average. Usually we attend one or two Perseverance plays a year along with one symphony. I do not believe we are actually members, though we do receive notice of upcoming events from both the Juneau Symphony and Perseverance Theater. The two events last year that I really enjoyed were Wearable Arts, and last year’s symphony that focused on theme music from well known motion pictures.

  1. The Council is embarked on building a facility dedicated to the arts and culture to replace the existing JACC: The New JACC. How familiar are you with this project? What role does the Assembly have in this effort?

I last heard about this project when I attend the Mayor’s Award for the Arts. I am somewhat familiar with it.  I see the assembly’s role as being a partner, similar to how it was done with the sea walk and whale sculptor. To make it successful there will need to be substantial private funding. The city could possibly donate land (if needed) and some infrastructure. Ideally, the city’s role would be to make sure the end result would be a completed project, that the required agreements are in place, and that the model fits within the greater Willoughby District plan.

  1. The CBJ Comprehensive Plan identifies a Cultural Campus in the Willoughby District. Do you support such a Cultural Campus for Juneau? What can the Assembly do to make this comprehensive plan goal more than an “aspiration?”

Yes, I support a cultural campus in the Willoughby District. The Arts are an integral part of this community and I certainly appreciate what the Arts have done for Juneau and the amazing number of residents that are intensely involved with the Arts.

To make this more than an aspiration, many things would need to come together.  The Art community and the art affiliated sector, the city, the State of Alaska, possibly the Mental Health Trust Authority. I think the city has shown the Arts to be a priority by identifying a Cultural Campus. With the planning of the New JACC, this will be a monumental step in actually establishing the campus. The process as I see it is basically this – identify your cultural campus location, plan for the campus through consensus with pivotal players and the community, identify funding, identify phases, move forward to construction.

The real hurdle in making this more than an aspiration will be identifying funding and partners early on. The city is facing, and most likely will continue to face, extremely challenging funding issues. The city will be going through a Prioritized Based Funding strategy in order to keep a balanced budget. Projects such as this will be competing with other community-valued projects. Perhaps just knowing when this would rise to the top for the city could be a measure of success.

  1. The Council recently adopted a resolution on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as did the Assembly. How can the arts and culture sector help address social issues to help make Juneau a healthy and vibrant community?

I believe the arts and cultural sector may possibly be the best entity for addressing social issues to help make Juneau a healthy and vibrant community. Last week I noticed the cut out figure of a homeless person in front of city hall to address the issue of homeless people in our community. This was very powerful – silent and thought provoking. The first step in finding solutions to any problem is to first accept that the problem exists, and that we must deal with it as a community.

I could see Perseverance performing plays that specifically deal with discrimination – equal pay for equal work, religion, gender identity, etc. I believe a comedy based play could bring a touch of reality and humor to very serious issues. Gender specific restrooms have lots of potential for humor with a real connection. Lets see what happens with states that have mandated that people must use the restroom that identifies with their birth certificate. It’s almost comical watching how this would play out. So lets play it out.

The Juneau Symphony could focus on music written by people that were not recognized because of their gender, sex, religion, or whatever the choice of discrimination may have been at that time and place. I sell lots of potential for the Art community.

  1. Other thoughts or comments?

I often thought that school districts across the country are really upside down. When budgets get tight, society immediately focuses on cutting art programs, physical education, vocational programs, drama, theater, etc. They stay with the reading, writing, and math. That is a very short-sided approach. The smartest people I know are the ones that learned to use both sides of their brain. My calculus professor in college was an unbelievable pianist. Learning creativity at a young age is what makes us great in the other disciplines. Art, theater, acting, and other creative classes should not only be required at some level (junior high or high school), they should be treated the same as math, reading, and writing. I received my BS Mathematics from UAF, and I have no problem saying that art is just as important as math – it teaches creative solutions and pushes us to think differently. That’s what makes us great.

Thanks for the questions. Much appreciated.

Arnold Liebelt