The sudden temporary closure of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts has caused some local events to hunt for a new home and others to be canceled.
The building, which is located inside Pioneer Park, has been a community focal point for years, hosting many gallery exhibitions, stage plays, and holiday bazaars. The closure was announced Friday after an examination of the columns that help support the roof and outer walls of the center revealed five columns are rotting on the inside.
Jess Peña, Fairbanks Arts Association director, wrote a message to the community following the announcement. The association operates in the Centennial Center and runs the Bear Gallery on the third floor.
“It is fortunate that this was a willing closure of the space for the safety of the public and not as a result of an accident. I would like to thank the Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor's office and Parks and Recreation Department for making what I know are difficult decisions,” Peña wrote.
The exhibition currently hanging in the Bear Gallery and featuring local artists LJ Evans and Brianna Reagan has ended prematurely as a result of the closure, according to the message, and the statewide photography competition "Rarified Light," which was set to open the first Friday in December, will be in a new location to be announced by the Alaska Photographic Center.
“I am in conversation with community partners to make the best of this situation and find ways to honor our commitments to artists and the public," Peña wrote. "Please know that if you are an artist, exhibitor, author, or community organizer who has work or an upcoming event in our space — we will be in contact with you very soon with more information and to make alternative arrangements."
As the Fairbanks Arts Association phone has been disconnected, Peña requests that general inquiries be emailed to email@example.com.
Also affected was the Yukon Quest, which was set to have its annual Bunny Boots and Bids Beer/Wine Tasting and Auction on Saturday, the day after the closure, when Executive Director Marti Steury received the news of the closure via phone call Friday afternoon.
“Basically the Yukon Quest holds a number of fundraisers throughout the year and this is our biggest one of the year,” she said.
The event gives people the opportunity to meet and talk with mushers, according to Steury, and all proceeds go to supporting the race. Mushers dressed in tuxedos serve hors d'oeuvres to the guests, who can participate in the tasting and auction. With help from Pioneer Park and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the event has been rescheduled for Dec. 7 and will take place at the Birch Hill Recreation Area from 6-10 p.m.
“Pioneer Park contacted us Friday afternoon and they worked with us very, very closely to get things transferred from one borough property to another because this wasn’t something they planned,” Steury said.
It’s still going to be the Quest's biggest fundraiser of the year, according to Steury.
“It’s just going to be a little bit later and in a different location,” she said, “but again, if it weren’t for the efforts of the borough staff, we wouldn’t have been able to facilitate that so quickly.”
Tickets bought for last Saturday will still be good in December, Steury said, and she requested anyone with questions call 452-7954.
Even Pioneer Park, where the center is housed, has had to adjust to the closure for repairs.
The Pioneer Park Holiday Bazaar, which was set to take place Nov. 30 alongside other festivities, has been canceled, said Donnie Hayes, Pioneer Park manager.
Hayes added that the other events set to take place on the same day, including the Santa Train and tree-lighting ceremony, will still take place.
“I don’t think that anybody is happy about the fact that anything is canceled, especially in our community,” she said, “but at the same time a lot of people understand that it’s about the importance of safety, and so a lot of our vendors have been very understanding once we’ve been able to talk to them.”
People can check www.pioneerpark.us or the Pioneer Park Facebook page for further information on park events or can call the office directly at 459-1087.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal