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2006 Candidate Forum

Do Our Candidates Care About the Arts and Cultures of Anchorage?

The Fourth Anchorage Cultural Council Candidate Forum on Arts and Culture was held on February 23, 2006.

February 23, 7:00 pm
Anchorage Museum of History and Art


Ira Perman


Ed Bourgeois

Music and Dance by the Heritage Center Dancers

Participating Candidates:

Mayoral candidates:

Mark Begich and Jack Frost. Thomas Higgins had to cancel at the last minute, but sent in a statement of support for the arts and a poem he wrote while working in Katmari National Park in 1996.

School board candidates:

Macon Roberts and Charles Rushing for School Board Seat E
Jeff Friedman and Thomas Lamb for School Board Seat F
Ray Metcalfe and Mike Layne for School Board seat G.
Crystal Kennedy, also from Seat G, could not attend but emailed in responses to the questions.

Questions Asked of the Candidates and Some Selected Responses:

Note: Questions were drawn from a hat - not every candidate had the opportunity to answer every question.

Q: What would you tell a disgruntled taxpayer who calls to complain that 1% for the Art program is a waste of taxpayer's money?

Crystal Kennedy: "Of course, everyone knows that art elicits an opinion of one kind or another. However, everyone should know that this is a state legislated program that the District is required by law to fund. It's oversight is through a committee made of of community members. Many people feel that the addition of art to a project increases it's value and instills a greater sense of appreciation for the entire facility. If there are legitimate concerns with this public process, committee members or state legislators should be contacted."

Q: The Loussac Library is proposing a renovation that would include improved service to young people. What priority would you place on this project?

Jack Frost responded, but wasn't familiar with the details and hadn't seen the plans, although he did affirm that he is a supporter of the library. In order to fully respond, he would need to see the plans.

Q: The Federal act, No Child Left Behind, has established standards for reading, writing, and mathematics. Soon there will be stnadards for science. Art is considered a core requirement in the act, however, no standards have been set. How would you ensure that no artist is left behind?

Thomas Lamb took this question to be about how standardized assessment would be established for the arts. He spoke of his experience of arts in the schools in Edmunton, where they seemed to be more integrated than they are now in Anchorage.

Q: What is your favorite public art in Anchorage? What makes it your favorite?

Charles Rushing: The belugas at Bird Point - everytime I drive by they make me smile.

Q: There are more than 90 languages spoken by students in the Anchorage School District. What one project would make all cultures feel more welcome in our schools and community?

Macon Roberts said that he is a member of Bridge Builders, an organization that works to create a city without prejudice. He would like to see a diversity day in the schools - during which students and their families would come to school either dressed or with items representing their cultural heritage. The event would provide students a chance to show pride and talk with each other, thereby fostering understanding.

Q: Anchorage has the opportunity to acquire the 4th Avenue Theater. A. Should the city acquire it? B. If so, what should we do with it? C. If not, what do you think should happen to the 4th Avenue Theater?

Mark Begich said that he believes the city should acquire the theater and that he's working toward that with the Anchorage historic Properties. There's a group meeting now to decide what to do with it once it's acquired.

Later in the event, Jack Frost said that he would support a private entity acquiring the theater, and that entity should decide what to do with it.

Q: What will you have done upon the end of your tenure to support diversity and understanding?

Ray Metcalfe said that he grew up on a reservation, and so understands diversity and the gap between urban and rural Alaska. He asked whether people in the audience would envision their children suddenlyplaced in a rural village and still thrive.

Q: The Anchorage School District has a neighborhood magnet school, Central Middle School, for students who excel in science. Is Anchorage ready for a magnet school for the arts?

Some candidates said yes, while others thought that separating out the arts would be a shame taking art exposure away from all children.

Audience Questions and Selective Responses:

Q: Would you support lengthening the school day?

This question drew perhaps the most varied responses from the school board candidates. Ray Metcalfe said yes, absolutely. Macon Roberts suggested that it might be a good idea, but rather than increase the workload for teachers, a corresponding increase in teacher hires and planning periods for teachers should be put in place.

Q: Do you support removing sugar-laden items from the vending machines?

His question received a unanimous "yes", with candidates advocating for healthy snacks to replace the sugary sodas.

Show and Tell

While answers to the evening's questions were interesting, perhaps the most revealing and candid moments of the night came when candidates were asked to talk about the piece of art they brought for "show and tell".

  • Jack Frost recited a Robert Burns poem with accent and all.
  • Mayor Begich and Mike Layne brought artwork done by their young children, explaining how the freedom in those drawings inspired them.
  • Macon Roberts brought a traditional west African robe that his wife made for him and that had been on display at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.
  • Thomas Lamb brought a photograph of some weeds (which, of course, was of so much more) he had taken as a college student.
  • Jeff Friedman brought a watercolor his wife painted.
  • Charles Rushing brought a painting of a cache of the Kenai Peninsula done by an Alaskan artist.

Door Prizes

Those who attended were in the running to receive one of the following prizes - Our thanks to the organizations who donated these items:

  • Two tickets to the Anchorage Opera's Second Stage Series production, "A Smattering of Pattering: An Evening with Gilbert & Sullivan"
  • Two tickets to the Anchorage Opera's Second Stage Series production, "Americans Go Wild"
  • Two day passes to the Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • Two tickets to the Cyrano's Theatre Company production of "Adam's Rib"
  • Two tickets to the Anchorage Concert Association's production of Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir
  • Two tickets to the Anchorage Concert Association's production of Trinity Irish Dance Company


Mayoral Candidates Mark Begich and Jack Frost confirmed in the yes/no lightning round that they both have library cards and have used them.