Four friends have come together to create Anchorage Community Works, a new public multi-use shared art and work space located in an industrial neighborhood in downtown Anchorage near Ship Creek.
Craig Updegrove, Cody Augdahl, Paul Clark and Brooklyn Baggett said that they envision ACW as a way to fulfill vastly different creative needs while retaining a sense of community.
"We wanted a space that could accommodate all our varied interests," Baggett said, "I wanted a venue, Cody wanted essentially a play shop to work on bikes and toddle, and then Craig wanted a print shop and Paul wanted shared office space because he works by himself and there's no real good shared office space in Anchorage."
ACW's 5,000-square-foot warehouse, located on Ship Creek Road, seems to be the perfect space to do all of this and more.
The space is split into two wings -- one for visual arts, printmaking and office space, and the other for bikes, handicrafts, shows and public events -- and a large crow's nest loft, which will be used as a public meeting and conference room and a lounge.
"We've just formed this idea probably over the last nine months," Baggett said, "and then this property came up for lease and ... it's amazing. It needs a lot of work, but the layout is perfect and it's in a space where people aren't gonna care if we have music late and..."
"... and it comes with a food truck," Clark added.
It's true. Kendo's, a popular Thai spot run out of a food trailer in Ship Creek, sits right up against AWC.
"It's so good, he's legendary," Baggett gushed about the truck. "People come out here every day for lunch and (the large vacant lot next to AWC's building) fills up with cars and he usually sells out of his food by 2 p.m. So, we're working on convincing him, when we have night events, to open up and do a three hour food shift."
Funding an artist co-op
ACW's Ship Creek building is being leased, with an option, by the four founders, Badgett said.
"Right now, the four of us are paying rent. We plan on sticking it out for a year and see how the community responds to us. We hope they take us in and react to us positively and, if all goes well, we'll purchase the building."
Earning funds to prepare the building for operation has been "kind of a mixed bag," Baggett said. The group launched a Kickstarter campaign in early May and was able to earn all of the modest $10,000 requested to help with renovations, equipment purchase and furnishings well before the Friday close date (you can still donate until June 8.)
When the building is ready, ACW will act as a member co-op and a public venue.
"It's a membership based organization," Baggett explained, "so we'll have, ideally, 20 to 25 regular members that come in and use the space -- people that are working, people that are printing, people that are practicing music, just our 'resident artists.' Then, once a month, I'm going to do a music event or a concert, and once a month we're going to do a First Friday event with guest artists. We'll be doing workshops and classes, stuff on things like printmaking, web design and bike maintenance, too."
ACW's Grand Opening will be Friday, August 22 with Anchorage bands Historian, Ghost Hands, Young Fangs and singer-songwriter Matt Hopper. It will be an excellent opportunity for the community to come check out the new space.
In the meantime, individuals wishing to become AWC members can do so by paying into the space. The co-op is currently asking for monthly contributions, or "rent," of $100. The fee earns members regular access to equipment, space and the influence of other co-op members, a perk that will surely appeal to bands wishing for practice space, artist interested in having access to special equipment and gear-heads looking for an open garage.
But will it work?
Local artist Bruce Farnsworth sits on the board of directors of the Trailer Art Center which formerly ran the MTS Gallery in Mountain View. MTS went under after the gallery's landlord told the group of sudden plans to sell the building, disenfranchising the gallery. Farnsworth now works with the Light Brigade, a performance art collective based in Anchorage, and has been in talks with ACW on behalf of the Trailer Arts Center.
"ACW has certain ingredients in place to make it successful," Farnsworth said, "namely energy, smart dedicated leadership, members and demand. There's a huge need for this project and there's an insatiable need for artist workspace, access to tools for art making and more diverse performance venues."
But, there's always a downside, Farnsworth added. "I'm just speculating, like anybody else, but things can pop up, those surprise unexpected elements," he said.
One of those things may just be ACW's landlord situation.
"They have more than one landlord, really," Farnsworth said. "They have the landlord who owns the actual building and then there's the railroad who owns the land-- which is the case with most of the buildings in Ship Creek. In effect they have two landlords which might be a problem, or it might not."
On top of the dual landlords, ACW is located in an area that was just showered, earlier this year, with a $4,000,000 revitalization project. Mayor Sullivan and the legislature approved the project to help bolster the somewhat forgotten Ship Creek area.
Despite the endowment, Farnsworth guesses it won't have too much effect on ACW, at least not right away.
"By the time that happens they'll most likely be in need of a larger space," he said.
The Light Brigade is also about to become ACW's neighbors. The group will move into the former Chugach Electric power plant building on the opposite side of the river this June.
"We've joked that we could throw things at each other," Farnsworth said. "(the proximity) will be good for us."
Four founding faces
"For the past six years," Baggett said, "I was running a concert promotion company in Portland working in festivals, booking bands and (working with) management. I just relocated here (to Anchorage) last July."
Baggett's former company, Octopus Entertainment, is a booking agency that works mostly with bands from Portland, Seattle and, on occasion, the Bay Area, she said. Baggett moved from Portland to Anchorage after her friend and fellow ACW cofounder Cody Augdahl relocated to pursue his residency in family medicine at Providence Medical Center.
Augdahl was born and raised in Alaska, and upon arrival back in his home state wanted a place to "make crazy bikes and have different kind of social events," he said.
"He makes WordPress," Baggett playfully parroted.
The fourth member of the team, Craig Updegrove, is a well-known area artist. Updegrove's visual work will be on display at ACW for the Aug. 23 show.
"It's an experiment," Baggett said, "and we're pretty excited."
Interested in all this hubbub? Contact Brooklyn Baggett at brooklyn(at)anchoragecommunityworks.com for more information.
Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com