Over the past few decades, Tom Locher has played piano in pretty much every venue in Juneau.
He’s seen the challenges that come with Juneau’s lack of a dedicated performing arts center.
Large productions usually end up at one of the high school auditoriums. Tom said logistics can be difficult in a rented space.
He recalls several performances at a high school that got cut short because no one would figure out how to turn the heat off; during another show at a radio studio organizers wouldn’t get the door alarm to stop going off.
“People need to experience the arts without having to share it with a bar or business, without having to share with a church or a school,” Tom said. “Church and school programming is really important and they should not have to be disrupted so they can make room for the arts.”
Tom supports the city’s proposed Capital Civic Center which combines Centennial Hall with a new arts and culture facility that would have a variety of spaces including a gallery and theater.
He said arts events and productions boost the local economy when people spend money on a night out including hiring a babysitter and going out to eat. Larger events, like the Alaska Folk Festival, bring in people from around the country who rent cars and hotel rooms during their stay in Juneau.
“The arts are not extra. They are not only a cultural outlet for people, they are a significant consumer spending and economic engine,” Tom said.