By Lilly Milman 

The potential loss of state arts funding and significant reductions in ferry service this winter will make it harder for the Skagway Arts Council (SAC) to bring entertainment to town. 

Unless Gov. Mike Dunleavy accepts the Legislature’s restoration of funding for the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska will be the only state without an arts council. The governor vetoed all of the arts council funding from this year’s state budget, but legislators in late July voted to restore the money. The governor has until late August to decide if he wants to veto the spending a second time. 

If the starts arts council is not preserved, its direct grants and scholarships will go away and Alaskans also will lose out on National Endowment for the Arts funding — the state council is responsible for facilitating federal grants to cities. 

The SAC is mostly self-supporting and has not historically relied on the Alaska State Council on the Arts, SAC President Donna Griffard said. However, the state council did provide travel grants that made it easier for cities to book entertainment from the Lower 48.   

It is not uncommon for several Southeast Alaska arts councils to collaborate on bringing performers to the area, using state grant funds to pay for the performer’s travel and accommodations. 

In past years, the state has provided the SAC with grants to participate in a national conference where arts councils figure out which performers should come to Alaska and how to split up the costs. While the SAC will likely be able to attend the conference without the help of the state, it will struggle to pay to actually bring performers to the area, Griffard said. 

Finding entertainers to come to Southeast Alaska will be especially difficult in the winter, as proposed cuts to the ferry system schedule will greatly limit travel options. The SAC cannot afford to pay for a performer’s airfare, nor can the council pay for a performer’s weeklong stay in a hotel between ferries, Griffard said. 

“Those are funds that’ll be greatly missed,” Griffard said. “We need entertainment. We’re bored in the winter.” 

The proposed state ferry system schedule would leave Skagway with just one ship a week over eight weeks this winter.

The SAC)hosted its third annual Blues, Brews and Barbecue event at Seven Pastures on Aug. 3, in combination with the Maggio Scholarship Fundraiser.  

The money collected at the fundraiser, named to honor the late Skagway resident Chris Maggio, will help fund scholarships offered by the SAC. The council will continue to offer scholarships to year-round Skagway residents for music, art and dance despite the loss of state funding to the arts. 

Griffard encourages anyone interested in pursuing the arts — for example, by taking a class or by purchasing supplies or an instrument — to apply for the scholarship on the SAC’s website (www.skagwayartscouncil.blogspot.com.)