Spenard community center gets a makeover by victoria petersen
A Spenard community hub, previously known as the Church of Love, is getting a facelift and a new name: The Nave. “As people have experimented with different uses for this old building, the nave has always been the most inspiring space,” a statement on the space’s website said. In the coming weeks, a new building sign will be put up outside along with a new website.
The renovations address the age of the building, dating back to the 1950s, and focusing on safety systems and energy efficiency, an emailed statement from Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s representative, Sezy Gerow-Hanson, said.
The former church was bought by Cook Inlet Housing Authority in 2013 to make room for more parking for CIHA properties and was slated to be torn down. In the last five years, the building has played a new role for the neighborhood, including an event venue, art gallery and performance space.
The new design will include a familiar art installation on the south face of the building: “Our Lady of Spenard,” a collaborative art installation by Drew Michael and Garrett Perkins. A new art installation is also being permanently implemented in the entryway. “Healing Traditions,” created by artist Linda Lyons, is being funded in part by the CIRI Foundation. “Healing Traditions” will feature Dena’ina healing plants identified in consultation with Southcentral Foundation’s traditional healing clinic, and local culture bearer Melissa Shaginoff will greet people on arrival to the remodeled space, the CIHA statement said.
Some of the building’s upgrades include a fire suppression system, additional egress and circulation changes, the addition of an elevator will make the building more accessible for people with disabilities and mobility challenges, electrical and HVAC work will bring the building up to code and make it more comfortable, a new roof will stop leaks and much of the work will improve the energy efficiency of the building. The building will also have a new and improved lobby, increasing capacity and improving the flow of people at gatherings. There will be a new classroom space in the basement, allowing for additional gatherings, and more artist studios. Work is also being done to add and improve bathrooms and parking.
“The work is meant to improve safety and function, but we are also preserving some of the best features like the large nave space,” Gerow-Hanson said in the statement.
Improvements are being made outside the building as well, with the addition of greenspace between the CIHA office at 3510 Spenard Road and the south side of the church.
With the new name, also comes a new logo, which is inspired by the stained glass of the church. “It depicts three brush strokes arranged in a triangle like the window, pulling out three bold colors from those panels of glass,” the website said. “The three strokes represent the pillars of community, culture and art that define the Nave’s purpose.”
Funding for the renovations is made up of public and private sources. Part of the ArtPlace America grant, awarded to CIHA in 2015, is being used to fund some of the renovations. The Rasmuson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Atwood Foundation, The Richard L and Diane M Block Foundation, Dean Weidner, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and Cook Inlet Housing Authority have all invested “in the creation of this community and cultural hub for Spenard,” the statement said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting the lives of Alaskans, CIHA is only planning for small scale gatherings and events once construction is complete. “We look forward to a time when we will be able to gather the community for larger scale events and engagement at the Church of Love,” the CIHA statement said.
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