An Insider’s Guide to the Arts in Juneau, Alaska

This article, An Insider’s Guide to the Arts in Juneau Alaska, is part 1 of a 3 part series entitled An Insider’s Guide to Juneau, Alaska: The Arts, Shopping and Dining.

Juneau, Alaska is a modern, cosmopolitan city nestled in a pristine rainforest located in Southeastern Alaska on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Often warmer than people anticipate, the temperatures average just above freezing in the winter to highs in the 70’s during the summer months. A breathtakingly beautiful place, Juneau offers visitors and residents the best of both modern conveniences and natural splendor.

As the capital of Alaska, Juneau is home to many of Alaska’s government agencies, large corporations and learning institutions. The per capita income of its population is one of the highest in the state and the city boasts a high concentration of luxury resorts, luxury real estate properties and popular tourist attractions. As a result, Juneau enjoys a fine variety of arts, shopping, dining, and other cosmopolitan activities unmatched elsewhere in Alaska.


The Perseverance Theatre of Juneau is a nationally recognized professional theater that has debuted over 50 new plays written by local and national playwrights. Its focus is on developing and working with Alaskan artists and producing plays that celebrate Alaskan culture and history. It was founded in 1979 by Molly Smith, the current artistic director at Arena Stage in Washington, DC and fostered the development of Paula Vogel, the 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner for her play How I Learned to Drive. Paula wrote her award winning play while an artist-in-residence at the Perseverance Theatre.

The Perseverance Theatre performs full production professional plays from September through May in its 161-seat Mainstage theatre, and smaller scale productions and readings, usually produced by up and coming talent, in its smaller Phoenix facility. The theatre also serves as the center for all theatre education activities at the University of Alaska Southeast.

In addition to the Perseverance Theater, Juneau is also the home to other performing troupes, including the Juneau Lyric Opera, which performs operas in English and Italian and sponsor chorale events, Opera to GO! which offers workshops and hosts student competitions in addition to regular performances, and the Theatre in the Rough, which recently won a Juneau Mayor’s Award for the arts and explores a wide range of storytelling forms including traditional theatre, dance, music, poetry, masks and puppets, usually with a Shakespearean twist.


The Juneau Symphony Orchestra is comprised of over 80 semi-professional and volunteer musicians that perform a myriad of musical selections throughout the year and regularly feature headline talent from throughout the Pacific Northwest. It includes a thriving student symphony network, inviting promising, bright talent from regional educational facilities to perform and gain valuable performance experience. The symphony performs on the Mainstage of the Perseverance theatre, and also offers preview performances at local art venues.

In the spring, Juneau is home to two popular musical festivals: The Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival. The Alaskan Folk Festival usually takes place during the second week of April. A celebration of Folk Music from the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska, the festival is comprised of 9 concerts performed over 7 days, with 15 acts in each concert. Supported solely by volunteers and donations, the Alaska Folk Festival attracts solo artists and musical groups and also offers dances, jams, singer and musician showcases as well as free workshops for people interested in music.

The Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival features world-class classical, jazz and blues concerts, both formal and informal. Held over 16 days in May, the festival also offers workshops for musicians of all levels, youth concerts, community outreach activities, and special public sessions with featured artists.

In the summer months (June through September), Marine Park offers Friday night open air music and dance performances.


Downtown Juneau contains more than a dozen well-known art galleries representing many different forms of art: photography, painting, jewelry, woodworking, fiber arts, pottery, glasswork, mixed media, sculpture and more. In addition, artist coops like The Juneau Artists Gallery boast the work of individual artists from the Juneau area. Many of these galleries include workshop spaces that offer workshops and demonstrations and support local community activities. For example, The Canvas is a popular gallery and community art studio dedicated to the creative development and inclusion of adults with disabilities and features many of their original works.

The enormously popular Juneau December Gallery Walk is held the first week of December each year, where visitors and residents alike enjoy meeting artists, watching demonstrations, participating in events and partaking in food and spirits in celebration of the start of the Holiday Season.

The Juneau art scene places a significant emphasis on the preservation and presentation of art that reflects Alaska’s history and celebrates its native people and culture. Visitors are often surprised by the richness and variety of the area’s different artistic specialties, and gain a significant appreciation for the uniqueness of the Juneau area through the work of its local artists.


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