By Jenny Neyman
Most striking wasn’t the colors, though they were vibrant. Nor the designs, though they were eye-catching. It was more the content of the imagery — the interestingly different takes on the theme “Life on the Kenai,” and yet the similarities running throughout all the pieces in the Paint and Pen the Kenai summer art show, which opened with a reception Thursday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
“I think it’s very diverse and there are a lot of neat possibilities for public art. And there’s so much similarity, too — most have planes, most of them have fishing and the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Anna Widman, who teaches art at Nikiski Middle-High School and submitted one of the mural paintings.
Hers references salmon runs with a Native-inspired motif and recreation with a campsite, a fishing fly, a guitar player seated at a bonfire and a snowmachiner. There’s a moose amid summer wildflowers, and it’s all set at the mouth of the Kenai River with the Russian Orthodox Church and Veronica’s Cafe in Old Town, a few oil platforms out in Cook Inlet, a plane flying overhead and Mount Redoubt framing the scene in the background.
“I thought that togetherness was a theme, so I wanted to show that,” Widman said. The lines of the Kenai River and sandy shoreline in her vertical design converge into two hands holding each other at the bottom of the frame.
Kenai Peninsula residents were invited to paint a mural panel or submit writing sharing their vision of “Life on the Kenai” for display in the summer show. Starting this week viewers of the show will be able to vote for their favorite painted panel, and the winning design will be reproduced as a large-scale, permanent public mural somewhere on the peninsula. The placement also is going to be community-driven, with people suggesting and voting on possible locations. A Pen the Kenai writing will be selected to go on permanent display with the mural, as well, and a book will be produced commemorating the project, showing the mural designs and writings.
“Everyone will get a chance to vote on what they want to see and where they want to see it. I’m looking forward to having one of these awesome designs be a mural in our community,” said Marcus Meuller, president of the Soldotna Rotary Club, which is organizing the Paint and Pen the Kenai project in conjunction with the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you to all the artists and all the writers. I’m just astounded by the quality in this community.”