Responses from Ken Koelsch Candidate for Mayor

JAHC response Ken Koelsch

1. Participation/Involvement:

Recently, I received a call from a former student in Montana (have not had a

conversation with him in years)-he talked among other things about his role in “Bye Bye

Birdie” in 1988 and what it meant to him and his friends even now.

For nearly 30 years, I taught at JDHS, many of those years I directed the annual

musical working with faculty and wide range of students and community members to

put on some of the most inclusive and special musical events in Juneau. I was fortunate

to work with the music, drama, art, and theater faculty as well as many community

members: teaching, directing, organizing, performing, coaching singing and acting,

building sets, selling tickets and advertising for the programs. The goal was to engage as

many students, faculty, and community members to create a memorable musical


Like the ’88 graduate, many former students remember the musical as one of their

most memorable experiences in high school. To this day, I still hear about the last

musical I directed, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” For many of these

students the spring musical was their only significant high school art experience, but

whether they were on-stage, part of the crew for changing the sets, running the lighting,

in the orchestra, painting the sets or designing the programs, many have become

lifelong participants and supporters of the arts in Juneau. Some own or work in

galleries, shops, services, restaurants or other tourism oriented endeavors; others work

for State, City or Federal Government but participate on and off the stage in the rich art

community in Juneau

Marian and I attend many art and theatre events in Juneau throughout the year-

Perseverance and high school plays, First Fridays, Gallery Walk, Wearable Art, and many

others. We support the annual fund raising events at the Canvas. We also actively

support our granddaughters in their dance classes and as they participate in the rich art

experiences in the Juneau schools, many made possible by the JAHC. This month our

granddaughter Kaylee was able to work every day for 3 weeks with local artist Marianne

Manning, Artist in Residence, at Gastineau School. Thank you for keeping this awesome

program going for nearly 40 years in Juneau’s schools.

2. I have read the JAHC Strategic Action Plan

The Willoughby District served as the cultural pinnacle of Juneau. It was serving that

purpose even in 1968 when we first arrived in Juneau. The Fireman’s ball in the

National Guard Armory (now the JAHC) was the event not to be missed. Mayor Bill

Overstreet recognized the Willoughby location as the logical center for the arts and

supported drilling a tunnel (the Overstreet underpass which is still there) connecting

Main street with Willoughby. With the construction of the SLAM project, the newly

renovated Elizabeth Peratrovich hall , the City Museum and the construction of the

Walter Sobeloff Heritage Center-the Willoughby District is even more centered (may be

time to reopen the tunnel).

Transportation and parking will be keys to further construction in the area-ideas need to

be revisited such as taking down the current three story State parking (foundation too

weak to add more stories)next to the State Office building and putting in eight stories of

parking (with an elevator that would exit on Calhoun) and would be available for free

after 4pm to the public. Building a multiple story parking area on the lot next to the

Federal building is also an idea. Bus transportation from the Valley and tram

transportation from downtown must also be added to the mix.

3. Having lived and worked in Juneau and the downtown area for many years, I have

seen the importance of a vital arts and culture community. Working everyday with the

cruise ship crew, passengers and the many and varied people involved in Juneau’s

tourism industry, I have seen firsthand how important the Arts are to Juneau’s economy

both through tourism and in galvanizing our role as Alaska’s Capital city.

A capital city should be more than a collection of government buildings; the Capital

City needs to lead as an Alaskan community focused on providing an environment that

serves the entire state, a community that exemplifies fiscal responsibility yet still finds a

way to develop and celebrate our unique culture and art. Several years ago the Juneau

economic development group (JEDC) put out a study that showed the importance and

vital role that the arts played in Juneau’s tourism industry/economy (over 1000 jobs).

That needs to be updated and used.

4. I served as co-chair of the Silver Anniversary committee and that group was

responsible for securing the Main Street bear. The Centennial committee and the Silver

Anniversary committees secured several other pieces of art for the community. With

the opening of the SLAM, the addition of the Skip Wallen Whale sculpture on the

waterfront and the Walter Sobeloff Center, it is time to market Juneau as a world class

art center. Like many visitors to Puerto Vallarta, art sculpture could be one of many

major themes that tied the downtown core together. The city may be able to

encourage more private/public/Rasmussen projects that vitalize (not revitalize) our art


5. I support a Cultural Campus in the Willoughby District to include an arts and culture

center. Again, repeating my answer for question number two: with the construction of

the SLAM project, the newly renovated Elizabeth Peratrovich hall, the City Museum, and

the construction of the Walter Sobeloff Heritage Center-the Willoughby District is even

more centered and functional as a Cultural Campus.

Again, I believe transportation and parking will be key to further construction in the

area and as mayor I will seek a solution.

6. These programs are very important for Juneau’s children. I have worked with some of

these programs when I taught Drama at JDHS. As I stated earlier my granddaughter,

Kaylee, this month was able to work every day for 3 weeks with local artist Marianne

Manning, Artist in Residence, at Gastineau School.

Some of these programs I am learning about. These programs are extremely important

to our schools especially now as funding and classroom staffing is being reduced.

7 I would anticipate a partnership of the CBJ, JEDC, JAHC, Juneau Chamber of Commerce,

Downtown Business Association, private citizens, and foundations to move the

Willoughby Arts complex forward.