PUBLISHED: 4:01 PM on Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Reclaiming history: A new use for old Ketchikan school
Ketchikan's White Cliff School, built in 1927, was the oldest continuously operating school in the State of Alaska when it was vacated two years ago.

Now, the community of Ketchikan is working to reclaim this cherished old school to create a facility that would bring together senior activities and arts programming in a vibrant, multigenerational community center.

For seniors, the White Cliff School would provide accessible space for day activities and meal programs, within a grand structure that has a strong sense of the community's history.

For the arts, the White Cliff property would provide space for arts programming: a theatre, dance studios, visual arts studios, gallery space, support spaces, and community arts organizations, which will build upon on Ketchikan's foundation as one of "America's 100 Best Small Arts Towns."

For the community as a whole, this venerable building would be a dynamic gathering place: seniors crossing paths with young dancers on their way to class, generations of families viewing rotating gallery exhibits that are easily accessible, and new programs that would engage people from all segments of the community.

"The current Senior Services building is a hub for some very important services in our community, and our senior community is proud of the home that it has built for those activities," said Cleo Weston, a member of the Senior Services Board.

"The seniors care about the White Cliff building, and we can see a lot of great things happening when we have more space under that roof.

"I've taught painting for years, and I am excited by the things that will be possible for seniors when there are art classrooms and dance studios and a theatre and gallery in the same building."

The idea of bringing generations together in a community center is echoed by the President's 2005 White House Council on Aging, which encourages the redesign of senior centers for broad appeal and community participation, and promotes intergenerational programs for the benefit that they have to communities as a whole.

"We're very excited about the possibilities for this site: Ketchikan's arts community is thriving, and it needs a home. White Cliff could house the facilities that we need, and the senior programs bring a tremendous strength to the project," said Kim Judge, chair of the White Cliff Center Steering Committee.

"This project will provide opportunities for people of all ages in our community."

The Steering Committee has worked with the Borough Assembly to develop a mechanism for funding a significant portion of the estimated $14.8-million project cost, and Ketchikan voters will make that decision on Oct. 3.

"The White Cliff Center is a 'once in lifetime' opportunity for seniors to join with the arts community in creating a center to jointly meet our needs and to provide Ketchikan a lively center of activity with services for ourselves and for our grandchildren," said Alaire Stanton, chair of the Ketchikan Senior Citizens Services Board.

For more information, the conceptual plan and "Frequently Asked Questions" are available on the project website: , or call 907-225-2211.