Jesse Kiehl – Candidate for State Senate

1. Please 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 events?

Juneau has so many artistic and cultural events that it’s impossible to take them all in! I really couldn’t guess how many our family attends and participates in. I’d have to count them by the week—not the year.

b. What types of events do you attend, and what motivates you attend arts and cultural events.

I love main stage shows at Perseverance Theatre and plays at the high schools and Theater In the Rough. Our family is deeply involved with Theater at Latitude 58. I‘ve also acted with Perseverance Theatre, did the Shakespeare marathon with TIR, and I volunteer backstage. I appear in The Nutcracker with Juneau Dance Theatre (where one of our daughters also dances.) Our other daughter participates in STAR at Perseverance, and what those kids do in just four weeks is inspiring. The new conductor at the Symphony is working with our musicians to create great performances, and out-of-town acts brought in by  Juneau Jazz & Classics are a treat. I love attending Celebration and taking the children to Folk Festival. I get to go to more First Friday openings than the rest of the family, who are usually tied up in rehearsals. Sealaska Heritage Institute’s lunchtime lecture series is always interesting and informative, and any time I get the chance, I enjoy dance performances by Yees Ku Oo, Yaaw Tei Yi, Woosh.ji.een, and other traditional dance groups. I joined the Filipino Community as a life member because the group sets such a model for all of us: celebrating family and culture and music and food and bringing people together. And speaking of music — from Playboy Spaceman to the Chapel By The Lake hand bell choir, Juneau is an amazing place to go to concerts. The annual Gospel workshop lifts souls, and the dance bands move our feet. It’s been a privilege to tell stories at two separate seasons of Mudrooms. I’ve had the privilege of supporting Juneau Lyric Opera on several occasions. I could go on to talk about religious ceremonies and the great work of the   Juneau Human Rights Commission and Bridge Builders, museum exhibits on Juneau and Alaska history, but perhaps its enough to say I love the strong role arts and culture play in our capital city!

c. Are you a current or past member of any Juneau arts organizations? Which one(s)? What motivates you to be a member?

We’re members of Juneau Dance Theatre and Perseverance Theater, along with public radio and several cultural organizations. Karen serves on the board of Juneau-Douglas Little Theater.

2.          The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council (JAHC) operates the Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC) which is a CBJ facility. Since July 1st of this year, JAHC has been contracted by CBJ to manage and operate Centennial Hall (also a CBJ building on CBJ land). JAHC is committed to building a facility dedicated to the arts and culture to replace the existing JACC: the New JACC.

  1. How familiar are you with the New JACC project, and what if any questions do you have about it?

 As one of the Assembly’s liaisons to the Willoughby Arts group, I’m quite familiar with the project. It’s unusual to have an arts agency handle replacement of a deteriorated city- owned building, but the partnership shows tremendous promise. I am confident the project can bring economic growth in our arts sector and the businesses that support it.

I’m proud the Assembly helped advance the New JACC both with land agreements and seed money approved by the voters six years ago. As the private fundraising effort adds grant after major grant, the momentum is building!

b.          What do you know and think about the dual management of the JACC and Centennial Hall?

As a member of the Assembly, I supported the move. I think combined management will let Juneau voters get more use out of both facilities and will be more efficient in the long run.

Shared equipment and infrastructure will enhance what we can do in—and lower costs at—both facilities.

c.     What is your position on the New JACC project generally?

I support it. In the short term, it will provide skilled workers with construction jobs our region needs desperately right now. The building will help with the city’s deferred maintenance needs and make Centennial Hall more efficient. It will also help attract more year-round conventions to the capital city. In the long term, it will improve our arts economy, save our city money, and make Juneau an even better place to live, create, and raise a family.

d.          Do you support CBJ investment in the New JACC, and what form would you consider best (general obligations bonds, revenue, bonds, sales tax allocation, or other means of generating investment funds)?

I support the city investing in Juneau’s future. I voted to put the question on the ballot.

There are a number of responsible ways to provide city resources, and I have to compliment the group promoting the project: every time the Assembly asked them to change something, they re-worked the proposal. I was very disappointed that some on the Assembly used that responsiveness as an excuse not to fund the project. In the end, a minority of the Assembly kept the people from voting. Despite the setback, I’m confident the New JACC will move forward.

3.          Juneau was chosen by the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as the 11th city in the nation for the Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child Initiative, a community-wide effort to ensure equal access to learning in and through the arts for all students. How would you, if elected, support and contribute to equitable access to arts education for every Juneau student?

 A key piece of ensuring that all children have access to the arts is education funding. Alaska hasn’t even kept up with inflation for several years, much less invested in our future. When education funding is inadequate, arts programs are too often the first to be cut. As chair of the Juneau Assembly Finance Committee, I worked to make sure we continue the city’s proud tradition of funding our Juneau schools to the cap every year. I was honored to help shepherd the process that increased our additional funding outside of the cap by 50% this year. Part of that ‘outside the cap’ funding goes directly to Juneau Alaska Music Matters, ensuring it keeps bringing award-winning music education to our schools. We’ve also protected arts programs outside of K-12. As we’ve revised the process Juneau’s Youth Activities Board uses to distribute grant funds, we’ve protected the funding available for arts programs.

In the Alaska Senate, I will continue my strong support for arts and education—both in our schools and throughout our communities—to make sure every child has access to the arts.

4.          Juneau was recently named one of the top 10 most Culturally Vibrant small towns in the United States by SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, and at the beginning of this year was named the sixth most Creatively Vital micropolis nationally by the Western States Arts Federation. Both these rankings were in part determined by the level of economic activity associated with arts and culture in our community, and by the level of public investment in the arts. How do you see these national rankings being leveraged to Juneau’s advantage, and what would you do as an elected official to ensure that Juneau remains a national leader in this area?

 We should all be proud of these hard-earned recognitions. They’re an opportunity for everyone who wants to bring people and events to the capital city to highlight our community’s vibrancy and strength. I’m glad to see them featured prominently on Juneau Economic Development Council’s “Choose Juneau” website. Businesses, nonprofits, and government can point to our extraordinary quality of life for employees. Conference and event organizers can capitalize on the arts to bring people to Juneau year-round.

The arts are an important piece of our economy. That’s why our economic development plan calls for us to build on arts and culture as one of our strengths—a key piece of keeping the capital and economic growth. More specifically, let’s strengthen our partnerships at the JACC (both the current and soon the New.) Let’s partner to strengthen the work Sealaska Heritage Institute and Goldbelt Heritage Institute do in our K-12 schools and with the University to promote Juneau as a center of Northwest Coast art. Together, we can diversify our economy and attract more people to a prosperous capital city.

5.          JAHC 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?

Our greatest opportunities lie in introducing groups of Juneauites to one another. Too often, we go to events with creators who look and talk the way we do, but don’t get outside our comfort zones. I think we can do a lot both to co-create, and to bring in work from outside our usual circles. Those are different things, and both are valuable.

Arts and culture groups already do a tremendous amount to fundraise for good causes. Continuing that work with an eye toward addressing the root causes of our region’s challenges of addiction, poverty, and trauma can do even more good. Bringing Southeast Alaskans together and strengthening one another is a never-ending process—one that can change the world.

6.          Please share any other thoughts and comments you may have about JAHC, the New JACC, or the arts and culture in Juneau.

 My thanks to the Arts & Humanities Council for decades of great work for our community. It’s not lost on me that the city’s arts grants have not been adjusted for inflation since before I first ran for the Assembly seven years ago. Through difficult budget times, every entity—public and private—has done more with less. JAHC’s work remains excellent, and I appreciate it.

Thank you again for the opportunity. If you or the council would like to talk more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: (907) 209-7910 or

JAHC Candidate Questionnaire – Jesse Kiehl (1)