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By Dan Rudy 

Carving facility project to be completed this fall

 


In case you haven't seen past the building's cedar exterior, work on the Wrangell Cooperative Association's new carving facility and cultural center on Front Street continues.

“Things are going good at the carving shed,” said Todd White, WCA project manager. “We're right where we're supposed to be.”

Workers are currently painting the main room of the facility, no easy task with its high walls and ceilings. “We should have her painted and everything by August 22,” White said.

The offices and other sections of the building will be ready for occupation by mid-October. “If things go well,” White added.

Once completed, the building will have a number of uses. In addition to housing traditional carving projects and artwork manufacture, the center is planned to be used as an educational resource. Classes on crafts, language and culture will be held at the facility. There will also be business opportunities, with a store to sell items created at the center.

A sizable portion of this project's funding came from the M.J. Murdoch Charitable Trust, an organization dedicated to enhancing spiritual, cultural and educational causes in the Pacific Northwest. A grant of $250,000 was awarded to the WCA in March by the trust.

Costing $350,000 in all, this project is the second of three phases in the WCA's plans to rejuvenate Native culture in Wrangell.

“It's part of rebuilding a culture,” said White. “That's the driving force behind that (the projects).”

“There's a resurgence of everything Native,” said Carol Snoddy, WCA manager.

The first phase in this process included the restoration of the tribal house on Chief Shakes Island, which was

completed last year. Originally built in 1840 and lived in for a century, the structure had fallen into extensive disrepair. Only three percent of the original materials could be restored.

A $225,000 Murdoch trust grant helped finance the

Shakes Island house restoration as well. The rededication celebration for the building occurred last May after its completion.

Once the carving facility is completed, the third phase of the WCA's work will be the restoration of two totems and the crafting of at least three new totems to replace those that have been lost. Snoddy explained that they would like to

incorporate a small park space on the carving facility's grounds with totem poles placed on display outside.

For White, the positive effect of these projects is already making itself evident, and the experience has been valuable for him.

“It's made a pretty big difference,” he said. “You can see the reward in the people.”

 

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