5.30 I Can't Breathe-5724.jpg

Mohagani Magnetek marches at last week's "I Can't Breathe" rally in Anchorage. 

Akela Space is opening its doors for the first time since last October on Friday. Previously co-owned by photographers Mikey Huff, Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz, Jovell Rennie, and promoter Willie Dalton, the gallery has shifted ownership to Young Kim and Rennie.

"Originally, we had planned on opening back up in April after doing some remodels, but then COVID hit and everyone kind of hit pause," says Rennie.

Rennie and Kim were still on the fence about reopening, but another global event dictated the pace.

"With the wave of rallies and everybody gearing up and fighting their asses off to combat what's going on nationwide, it really lit a fire under our butts, and we were just like we have an opportunity to do more, and we need to seize it," Rennie explains.

The duo began by making portraits of the LGBTQI+ community and people of color last week.

"I invited people to come down to the space and share what was going on in their mind. It was just a way to have a conversation. I also offered to make some portraits, and if people wanted to donate to the fund we started, they could," he says.

After one day, Rennie and Kim had raised $500 for their "I Can't Breathe" fundraiser. By Monday, they had raised over $2,000, which will be distributed to local and national organizations working to combat police brutality.

The community response has prompted the duo to host a First Friday gallery show with help from ShowDown Productions. The gallery will be packed with black and white images of last week's rally and protest signs.

"We're grateful that ShowDown is providing the means to print the photographs and giving us the opportunity to have something tangible to show," says Rennie.

Akela Space (320 W 6th Avenue, #132F) will be open at 6 pm on Friday, June 5. Masks are required for entry, and there will be a cap on the number of people allowed in the space at one time. If you can't make the opening but still want to donate, you can do so at http://www.akelaspace.com or via Cash App at $AkelaSpace.

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