Flourishing or falling: How is Anchorage's art scene performing in a recession?

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - If the most recent data released by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation is any indicator, it might be a challenge for Alaskans to find creative outlets in a recession. Still, many say Anchorage's art scene is thriving despite tough economic times.

"I think people put a high premium on arts and culture and entertainment up here," said Cara Walsh-Dorman, co-owner of MUSE school of music.

On a Friday afternoon, the school's Spenard location is full of sound as students take piano and guitar lessons. Walsh-Dorman says the school, centered on giving private lessons, is currently working with more than 100 students. "Being artists and business owners, we're used to being in that position of having to take a risk, but we've felt this community is supportive of quality arts," she said.

In a recently released report card on Anchorage's Live. Work. Play. initiative, the organization said when it comes to play and the arts, the state's largest city took a hit falling eight spots. "This decrease is primarily due to drops in the arts and cultural sector, with arts-related jobs and performing arts establishments both decreasing, as well as decreases in the numbers of full-service restaurants and arts institutions per capita," the document states.

Guitarist and MUSE School of music co-owner, Eddie Dorman said Anchorage has a thriving music scene, but finding venues to play is a challenge. "I want them to have the same experience I had on stage and see what it's like to be on stage, but Anchorage doesn't have that right now. We have too many venues just disappearing."

Some artists say that despite the recession, there's a sort-of renaissance happening across the city. "Its been here, but it feels like it's taking off," Kara Kirkpatrick, co-owner of Dos Manos said.

Kirkpatrick describes the Spenard area Dos Manos as a "FUNKtional" art gallery. The space serves as both a gallery and shop, with items made or designed almost entirely by Alaskans. "We feel that if we keep it local, it stays here and in our state," she said, "There's enough artists in the state to pick through."

National retailer Guitar Center recently announced plans to open a store in Anchorage. Guitar Center has more than 260 stores across the country. "Our new store complements the already rich atmosphere of musicianship in the area," a media representative wrote in a statement to KTUU. According to the company's website, "Guitar Center is the world's largest retailer of guitars, amplifiers, drums, keyboards, recording, live sound, DJ, and lighting equipment."

While it could mean competition for some Alaskan-based businesses, some say it might also be a spark for creative energy. "I think it's going to have a new vibe and might have a new shot in the arm for people to play and might offer people an opportunity to pick up an instrument, walk home and learn how to play," Dorman said, citing the difference between holding an instrument in a store versus browsing an online category.

It might not be easy to be expressive or to be a full-time artist, but many Alaskans say it's a culture the 49th state is fighting hard to keep alive.

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