A sizable crowd gathered outside a modest warehouse in Ship Creek Friday evening as the late-day sun pushed through an overcast sky. The building's silver siding reflected the light; the buzz of casual conversation and the aroma of food truck tender saturated the air. At hand was the grand opening party of the newly established Anchorage Community Works, a co-op style, multi-use public art and work space in the industrial district of downtown Anchorage.
Inside the building, former Roman Candles frontman Matt Hopper sat onstage playing to a crowd of absorbed onlookers. About 60 to 70 people occupied the warehouse, but the building's capacity, which is currently 112 people, had technically been met. The event was sold out. Most tickets had been purchased online, creating the illusion of a partially empty room. Those that couldn't get into the venue stood outside.
Some who'd come out hoping to catch a band or two expressed frustration over not being allowed in, others hung around in the venue's large front "yard" and enjoyed the music as they mingled or purchased food from the on-sight mobile vendor, but many ended up leaving.
Brooklyn Baggett, one of four Anchorage Community Works co-founders, was working the door.
"(This) event was our first trial and we do have some lessons to learn," Baggett acknowledged. One of those lessons is how to manage ticket sales, she said.
Anchorage Community Works -- or "The Works," as it's affectionately become referred to -- is a labor of love for four young professionals. Graphic and visual artist Craig Updegrove, medical professional Cody Augdahl, software engineer Paul Clark and marketing specialist Baggett came together last August to create and foster a project that they hoped would give the Anchorage arts and music scene an injection of creative freedom. Since the project's formation and the acquisition of a physical space early in May, The Works has received backing from a handful of local "members," who contribute time and physical effort into making the space feasible, and from a successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in over $15,000 in funding.
"All of the Kickstarter money went in(to) renovations and we probably are/have to spend an additional $15K or so," Baggett wrote in an email. Getting The Works off the ground hasn't been cheap, she said.
But the effort appears worth it. Events like last night's grand opening, which featured a lineup of deeply seasoned Anchorage and Fairbanks musicians -- including Matt Hopper, Historian, Young Fangs and Ghost Hands -- spoke to the potential the venue has of bringing great things to the community.
"It looks to be to be a potentially interesting space for art, music, and community gatherings," University of Alaska Anchorage instructor Solveig Pederson said. "It's a really cool venue and I'm impressed by how organized they are; it seemed like they're really on it."
Pederson added that she's happy to see "things like this" happening in Anchorage.
Baggett, meanwhile, is open to feedback. "My biggest hope, as we're trying to figure things out, is that the community gives us constructive criticisms and not just (complaints)," Baggett said. "I'm open to hearing what people want and what they think. It's encouraged."
Interested in getting involved? Want to know more? Have things to say? Contact Bagget at brooklyn(at)anchoragecommunityworks.com.
Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com