Public funds for Alaska House New York non-profit?

State legislators are considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money to support an arts and cultural center in New York City that its founder describes as an embassy devoted to increasing awareness of Alaska.

The nonprofit, Alaska House New York, opened in September 2008, in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan. Until now, it has been privately financed by founder Alice Rogoff, a wealthy advocate of Alaska Native art. She describes it as an effort to promote the state's business and culture as well as sell art.

"I did this because I thought it was really important, not just for the state in the big picture but for the sake of village life and subsistence and Native people whose livelihoods are dependent on so much of this state's economy continuing to flourish," Rogoff said in an interview. "Well, I can't afford to keep New York open anymore so we're either going to close it or we're going to find funding for it."

She has proposed various amounts of state support in recent months. Rogoff and other representatives of Alaska House met with a special assistant to Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday and presented a request for a $600,000 appropriation for "public relations and economic development marketing." Alaska House also has a request for money pending before the Legislative Council, a panel that spends money between legislative sessions.

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