Church of Love
Organization and community: Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK)
In 2013, Cook Inlet Housing Authority purchased an old church building and land adjacent to their main headquarters in Spenard with the intention to tear down the building to expand staff parking. Two years later, The Light Brigade, a local arts collective, approached them seeking a space to build a large-scale art project commemorating the Anchorage Centennial. They agreed, and this set the stage for long-term exploration of the building as a makerspace and a central hub for the neighborhood and community engagement. Once the number and range of gatherings, events, and uses began to increase and local residents and artists showed a renewed value in an old space, a path toward investment in rehabilitating the building as a permanent community center became viable. Formerly known as the “Love Church” when it was used by a Korean-American congregation, it was later renamed by the artist using the space as the “Church of Love.”
Now that it has been firmly established, the Church of Love has become an indispensable part of the community, providing a performance venue and gathering place for the community, creative entrepreneurs, programs for children, youth, and other residents. It was the site for a wide range of events including plays exploring homelessness and suicide, youth-focused music and dance competitions, and space for artists through the artist-in-residency program. The Church of Love has housed up to six studio artists over the course of the test period: an Alaska Native bead artist, three painters, a potter, and a woodworker. The building’s survival and evolution as a neighborhood hub is a testimony to the growing importance of art and creativity in the Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s programming.
As Candace Blas, former manager of the Church of Love said, “I fell in love with the space and was so inspired by the work [Cook Inlet Housing Authority] was doing and the potential of creating a community center and changing the way a community is built by including artistic methods and including artists in the process. They acknowledged that artists have a unique way of problem-solving and seeing the world, that’s just as valid as a developer’s.”
In 2019, Cook Inlet Housing Authority began a $2M rehabilitation effort at the Church of Love to address life safety issues that come with a building from the 1950’s, correct building systems to address energy inefficiencies and to make the building fully accessible so that everyone in the community can participate and enjoy the venue. The new space will also offer additional artist studio space, the addition of classroom space in a finished basement, improvements to sound acoustics and increased lobby space for stand alone exhibits or to be used in conjunction with the larger nave space.