Marion Nelson, vice president of the Peninsula Art Guild, explains some of the renovations that will be taking place at the Kenai Fine Art Center on Sept. 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Marion Nelson, vice president of the Peninsula Art Guild, explains some of the renovations that will be taking place at the Kenai Fine Art Center on Sept. 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fine Art Center gets pandemic makeover

Shuttered due to pandemic, Kenai Fine Art Center gets makeover

It’s been six months since the Kenai Fine Art Center had any exhibits in its gallery, and by the time the space is ready for visitors again, it will look very different.

Thanks to several grants from the city of Kenai, the Peninsula Art Guild recently secured enough funds to start renovations that have been several years in the making.

Marion Nelson, vice president of the Peninsula Art Guild, said the pandemic actually presented the opportunity to make these renovations happen.

“We couldn’t justify opening given that we have so many volunteers that help us out at the front desk, and the tourism was for sure going to be down,” Nelson said. “It really just didn’t make sense. And so after certainly much hand wringing, we decided that (closing) was the way to go, and then that gave us this opportunity to get in here and tear into some things.”

The building that is now the Fine Art Center was originally a small jailhouse, built by volunteer firefighters and police officers in the 1950s, Nelson said. The jail cell is still in place, wrought-iron bars and all, and now serves as the back office.

One major part of the renovations will involve removing a wall in the back part of the building that will expand the space used for workshops and offer an unobstructed view of the jail cell, which Nelson said is always a big draw for visitors.

The bathroom will also be expanded by removing the back wall, and combining it with what is now a storage closet. Nelson said the main goal there is to make the restroom handicap accessible.

In addition, there will be an additional “executive” bathroom installed next to the jail cell/office.

New windows throughout the gallery, improved lighting, and a three-compartment sink are also included in the renovation plans.

Nelson said that although these renovation plans have been in place for about three years, it was only recently that the Art Guild was able to receive funding from the city of Kenai to cover the costs.

At their Aug. 5 meeting, Kenai City Council passed Ordinance 3416-2020, which appropriated nearly $1.5 million from the city’s general fund to be used on various projects, including improvements to the Kenai Community Library, the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center, the Kenai Recreation Center, roadway repairs and updates to the city’s IT infrastructure.

An amendment introduced by council members Robert Peterkin and Tim Navarre included the Fine Art Center in these appropriations and was successfully adopted. As a result, the Fine Art Center secured $100,000 for construction costs.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with the city, and this is a city building,” Nelson said. “And so it was a unanimous vote ‘yes’ to include us with all the other facilities in Kenai that are being assisted with some grant money.”

As for when the Fine Art Center will see visitors again, Nelson said it won’t be until at least next year.

“We had a full schedule this year, and we will hope to transfer a good share of those artists and exhibits into next year,” Nelson said. “And of course we’ve had some ideas since then, so we’ll see.”

Typically the gallery has a different show for each month of the year. On the first Thursday of each month there is an opening reception at the center, during which visitors get to meet the artist or artists whose works are on display. The next First Thursday event, Nelson said, will likely celebrate both the first exhibit of 2021 and the completion of the Art Center renovations.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20.
Triumvirate relief fund goes live

The theater burned down on Feb. 20

RN Rachel Verba (right) administers a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Chris Michelson (left) on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Bruce Richards/CPH)
More than 1 in 5 Alaskans have at least 1 vaccine dose

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Daniel Saxton demonstrates how to use a draw knife during the Kenai Wildlife Refuge’s remote Speaker Series on cabins on Friday, Feb. 26 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)
‘Everyone has a cabin’: Refuge explores history and nature of public use cabins on the Kenai

Dan Saxton also demonstrated how to use a draw knife during the presentation

Tracy Silta (left) administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to Melissa Linton during a vaccine clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, Feb. 26 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District vaccine clinic sees large turnout

The clinic was targeted specifically to KPBSD staff

Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire 
An investigation into a complaint from an inmate at Lemon Creek Correctional Center, shown above, exposed issues with the Alaska Department of Corrections Dental Services Program.
Report: Overhaul needed for DOC’s dental program

An investigation finds the corrections department ‘unreasonably delayed’ care for an inmate

Traffic moves toward Sterling along the Sterling Highway shortly after the roadway reopened. A fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Sterling Highway crash kills Soldotna boy

The accident closed a section of the Sterling Highway for several hours Wednesday.

A legislative aide enters the Alaska State Capitol as a worker clears snow from in front of the building on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska House speaker announced on Wednesday, Feb. 24, that a House member had tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
House disrupted after positive COVID-19 test

Alaska House Republicans identified the lawmaker as Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok, a member of their caucus.

Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, Feb. 25 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
Nearly 150,000 Alaskans are vaccinated; Dunleavy ‘doing well’

103,120 pairs of vaccine, or about 206,240 doses, were allocated to Alaska for the month of March.

Most Read