Church of Love
Organization and community: Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK)
In 2013, the 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 took ownership of the place, 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 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 artists, 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. Today, the Church of Love houses six studio artists: 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, 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.”