M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

The Pacific Northwest is known for its thriving arts and culture. Audiences across the region applaud for Shakespeare plays in Idaho, live concerts in Montana, and jazz performances in Seattle. The works of local artists are celebrated in the streets of Portland, the museum walls of Billings, and the classrooms of Alaska. As a region, we are invested in the arts, and this means that we are invested in giving everyone the opportunity to experience the arts’ transformative potential.  

As with any region with such varied landscapes and city sizes, some communities across the Pacific Northwest have greater access to arts opportunities than others. This is one reason the Murdock Trust is grateful to support a number of organizations bringing arts education to rural communities who might not have such access. One such organization is the Sitka Fine Arts Camp (SFAC).  

Photo Credit: Alex Hamm

SFAC was founded in 1973 to provide youth arts programs and training to isolated Alaskan communities. As the SFAC website states, Alaskan youth have little access to high-quality arts because of remoteness and low population density. For many Alaskan youth, SFAC is their only exposure to quality arts education.  

SFAC offers several programs that allow students to find the type of art they love best: 

  • Flagship summer camps for students in grades 1-12, with over 60 class options taught by more than 70 nationally recognized teaching artists. Class options have included The Art of Poetry, Northwest Coast Carving, Darkroom Photography, Animation, Modern Dance, Acrobatics, Broadway Songs, Jazz Band, Musical Theater, and much more.   
  • A Young Performers Theater that provides students in grades 2-12 the chance to perform a play and a musical throughout the year.  
  • A Summer Teacher Arts Institute that gives arts educators the chance to earn continuing education credits while learning best practices for a successful arts classroom. 
  • A Sitka Performing Arts Center and Hames Fitness Center that promote community wellness and connection. 

The story behind SFAC’s current success is worth celebrating, too. In 2011, SFAC was given the historic Sheldon Jackson College Campus, a property in disrepair until over 40,000 volunteer hours from community members rebuilt it into SFAC’s current, beautiful home. It is one of the greatest grassroots volunteer stories in Alaska’s history. Today, the award-winning organization serves more than 1,000 students from Alaska and around the world each year.  

Photo Credit: Alex Hamm

The Murdock Trust has been grateful to support this organization with two capacity-building grants over the years. One grant supported new facility lighting to enhance campus safety and use, and the second supported the renovation of the campus’ primary dormitory. We have been honored to witness how these capital improvements have already begun to increase the capacity and reach of SFAC’s work by providing safer and more comfortable experience for campers now and for years to come.  

One student said of their experience, “[SFAC] has encouraged me to interrogate my beliefs about the world and myself, take creative and interpersonal risks, opened my eyes to the infinite expanse of possibilities that art presents, and given me dozens of little moments that I will treasure forever.”   

We can’t image better evidence of the good work of SFAC. To this organization and so many others making arts education accessible, inclusive, and enjoyable to communities across our region, THANK YOU! 

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