Category Archives: art

Weaving a heritage —  Native artistic mastery lives on through Ravenstail revival

“Moon Woman Tunic” by Kay Field Parker

“Moon Woman Tunic” by Kay Field Parker

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The development of collaborative and complex forms of art is an indication of a thriving, high-functioning culture, one in which not every moment of the day is consumed with the bare necessities of survival. So don’t even think about calling the indigenous people of Southeast Alaska 200 years ago “primitive.” Yes, they lacked written language and the technologies that would come with Western contact, but they wore their creativity, ingenuity and diligence on their sleeves — or, rather, as their sleeves.

To put it simply, they could weave circles around you. Literally. And civilization today nearly forgot all about it.

The Chilkat weaving technique of the Tlingit, Haida and other Northwest Coast populations is one of the most complex in the world, unique in its ability to create curvilinear and circular forms in the weave itself. And within that style are echoes of an even older tradition, from the mid-1700s and earlier, with even more complexity, yet even less examples still in existence — just 15 known to exist in the world.

That is until the 1980s, when fiber artist and researcher Cheryl Samuel went in search for the perfect woven circle, and found it in the totemic designs of Chilkat robes.

“Chilkats are the only people in the world who wove a perfect circle. They learned how to pull weft strands onto the surface and catch them only with other weft strands so that instead of being a stair step, like circles are in weaving, it was actually a perfect circle,” said Kay Field Parker, who learned about Ravenstail from Samuel.

Samuel was captivated and delved into the button blanket robes bearing the Raven, Eagle and other clan symbols. The more Samuel studied, the more she uncovered references to the earlier weaving practice from which Chilkat developed. It was more geometric, with strong, linear patterns, whereas Chilkat designs are cuviliniar and totemic. Known until then as the Northern Geometric weaving style, Samuel coined the term Ravenstail and obtained grants to travel the world to study the few known examples left in existance. She worked out how to duplicate the patterns by teasing out the secrets of the techniques and began producing the style to other weavers.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kay Field Parker demonstrates Ravenstail techniques at the opening reception for her art show, “Traditional and Contemporary Ravenstail Weavings,” at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center last month.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kay Field Parker demonstrates Ravenstail techniques at the opening reception for her art show, “Traditional and Contemporary Ravenstail Weavings,” at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center last month.

Since then, Ravenstail has seen a resurgence, particularly in Alaska, but including a weaving guild that boasts over 100 members around the world. Parker, of Juneau, is one of the most noted practitioners in the state, and a display of her work is the spring art exhibit at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

She gave a presentation to open the show last month, complete with a weaving demonstration. Teaching is central to the Ravenstail revival, after all, since it was Samuel’s curiosity that saved the technique from obscurity.

Parker first learned of Ravenstail in 1987, while taking a class in spruce root basketry at the University of Alaska Southeast. She’s a lifelong crafter, but found the basketry difficult and, well, increasingly unappealing.

“I started noticing the class across the hall was a Ravenstail class, and as the weeks went by my basket got uglier and their weaving got more beautiful and I was hooked,” she said.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under art

Plugged In: Find photos to fit a theme, not a theme to fit photos

Illustration 1

Illustration 1

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Curating your own photos is nothing more than making the final choice of which photos you’ll show others, whether as large prints at a formal exhibition or in an online gallery. Being your own worst critic is surprisingly hard work, full of indecision, delay and second-guessing.

Although there are no easy rules or foolproof shortcuts, this week I’ll discuss the process that often works best for me. Over the years, I’ve found it helpful to have an organizing theme as a general starting point for selecting a series of related photographs that mutually enhance each other and look good together.

I’ll first tentatively define a theme or title and search my existing photos for images that may fit. That works better for me than defining a theme and then trying to make new photos to fit. Doing so feels forced and succeeds less often, at least for me.

As I go through existing photos and gather the initial batch, my initial concept typically evolves in unexpected directions or is even discarded entirely where a different approach is more in harmony with available photographs. At this point, it’s important to keep an open mind.

After gathering a large initial group of candidate images, it’s helpful to get second opinions from others whose judgment and taste you respect. That helps avoid the trap that we all face, choosing lower-quality photos that personally appeal to us because they’re associated with positive memories, or choosing “outlier” photos that don’t really fit the overall theme and seem jarringly disconnected from the others, no matter how individually good they might be.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, photography, Plugged in

Color me calm — Kids’ pastime crosses line into adult activity

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Coloring, once considered a fond pastime from childhood, is no longer viewed as a frivolous venture restricted to the youngest members of society.

“Adult coloring is becoming popular nationwide and at libraries across the country, so we thought we’d try adding it to our programming and seeing what the community’s response was,” said Reilly Selmser, a clerk at the Soldotna Public Library.

The library’s first adult coloring class was in November, and there has been half a dozen people coming each week since.

The designs are also not the simple outlines of cartoon characters, as is common with children’s coloring books. There are elaborate nature depictions, complex fantasy scenes and circular mandalas, just to name a few. And rather than crayons, colored pencils or narrow-tipped markers tend to be the medium of choice.

“They work better on the fine lines and intricate details,” Selmser said.

Jamie Morton, of Soldotna, was one of the participants in last week’s coloring class. She said that after a long day dealing with the responsibilities of adult life, it is therapeutic to come color for an hour.

“I like coloring for the anti-stressing part of it. It’s very relaxing,” she said.

Morton said that she was not an avid colorer as a kid, but has been making up for the lost time now that the library has been offering the program weekly.

“My 12-year-old daughter and I frequent the library and I brought her to one and we really enjoyed it,” she said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, entertainment, library

Art of satire — send us your submissions!

Example Image

Example Image

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

In the depths of World War I France, then-Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the “Tiger of France,” famously argued that, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” That’s true of art, as well, so the Redoubt Reporter and ARTSpace are sponsoring a satiric art writing contest open to everyone, with suitably satiric prizes. Parody pomposity! Release your inner philistine!

Good visual art either works or it doesn’t. Attaching pretentious, pompous writing that “explains” the image adds little value.

Too often, though, boring, ordinary images are subject to art “criticism” that seems to bear more resemblance to the writer’s inner projections than to the image itself or the artist’s intent. That’s not a new development. In his book, “The Painted Word,” writer Tom Wolfe (of “The Right Stuff” fame) parodied the New York art establishment’s written puffery of lousy art more than 40 years ago. Here’s your opportunity to strike back.

We’ve published several unmanipulated photos of real objects and scenes that appear abstract. Write some satiric

commentary about one or more images, identifying which photo(s) you are satiring. Your parody should be plausible, pretentious-sounding and humorous. I’m unwilling to hold anyone else’s images up to ridicule, so these are my own photos. Fire away! When the Redoubt Reporter publishes our favorite submitted satires, we’ll tell you what these photos really are.

Here’s an example: Our Example Illustration is of a famous 1975 Louise Nevelson sculpture, “Transparent Horizons,” a series of tall, black, steel figures of something allegedly biological, but severely toilet-papered in the photo. It’s located next to an MIT dorm, East Campus, famous for its practical jokes. Here’s what some anonymous MIT undergraduate wrote and pasted on the sculpture’s descriptive plaque:

“Transparent Papyrus: In his Magnum Opus, Fred D. Dorm creates a piece of transcendent found art. The white lines streak across the black frame of the pile of junk illuminating discovered meaning in an inherently nihilistic landscape of dark emotion. The lines refuse to stay straight in a stark upheaval of a traditional Euclidian universe.”

By the way, if you want to read some really excellent, straightforward art criticism and history, written in clear, simple English by a real expert, get Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization,” available on DVD as a BBC series and also in print.

Email entries to redoubtreporter@alaska.net. Be sure to mention which photo(s) you are referencing. Entries on each photo should be no more than 150 words. Tell us your name and a little about yourself — profession (or school you attend if you’re a student), where you live and any art background you might have. Entries due Dec. 16.

Leave a comment

Filed under art

Crafted for fun — Craft fair vendors, shoppers find holiday cheer

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mandy Pieh, left, and Shaya Straw attend the Kenai Arts and Crafts Fair every year to shop for out-of-state family, and to catch up with each other.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mandy Pieh, left, and Shaya Straw attend the Kenai Arts and Crafts Fair every year to shop for out-of-state family, and to catch up with each other.

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

For being ostensibly about commerce, the Kenai Arts and Crafts Fair, held Black Friday weekend, no less, inspired surprisingly little talk about spending money. Far higher on the list of priorities for vendors and visitors was spending time and attention on loved ones.

“We come shopping here together every year. It’s our tradition,” said Shaya Straw, who was perusing the booths Friday at Kenai Central High School, in the annual fair put on by the Peninsula Arts Guild, with her friend, Mandy Pieh.

“We both work full time, we both have kids and we don’t get much time together, so it’s nice to have time together,” Pieh said. “… Friendship is just something to really be valued.”

For Jessica Russo, craft fair season is reunion season.

“To me, this is holidays. I see people I don’t get to see but once or twice a year. And it’s just wonderful to see everybody and see new stuff. I haven’t really gotten a chance to walk around yet but I know there’s a lot of awesome stuff out there every year. It’s a good way to start the holiday season,” Russo said.

She and her mom run a booth as an extension of their gift shop, The Peddler, in Ninilchik. For Russo, selling is a way of buying time with her family.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “This gives me a great side income to be able to stay at home with my son. And it’s my Mom and I that partner in the business, so family owned and operated and it really feels good to be able to do what I love and be able to make a small living at it.”

The familial focus is familiar for Ashleigh Little, of Kenai Bijoux. She started selling jewelry, wine charms and jewelry board organizers about four years ago.

“My husband told me to get a hobby, so I got a hobby,” she laughed.

These days, she’s a stay-at-home mom to her 1-year-old son, and the business generates at least a little income for her. She’s born and raised in Kenai so loves that she gets to see so many familiar faces at the fairs.

“It is fun. It is a lot of work, though — hauling and organizing. A lot of preparation goes into it,” she said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, community, holidays

ARTSpace making new spaces for local art — Park installation part of community public art initiative

Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi, ARTSpace, Inc. The new Art Park installation at Soldotna Creek Park opened with a ribbon cutting Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi, ARTSpace, Inc. The new Art Park installation at Soldotna Creek Park opened with a ribbon cutting Saturday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

A painting is the interplay of individual brushstrokes. A photo is the composition of gradations of highlight and shadow, hue and saturation, tint and shade. The art is the sum of its parts, but the rendering of subject matter through context and perspective creates meaning greater than its components.

The new art display installation at Soldotna Creek Park does that, as well. Its parts are two wood-framed, glassed-in panels on which photo prints, paintings, drawings and other two-dimensional artwork can be exhibited out of the elements yet amid Soldotna’s busiest park, smack in the middle of downtown.

And the Soldotna Art Park itself is a component of a larger public art initiative being implemented by ARTSpace, Inc., the Rotary Club of Soldotna, city of Soldotna, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.

“The idea is a long-term approach to community beautification and public art where all parts fit together as a whole and don’t cost a lot of money to implement or maintain in the long term,” said Joe Kashi, president of the nonprofit ARTSpace organization. “The community has to look nice and be attractive to people to attract better-paid people to come work here. So it’s one part of a larger economic development aspect for the Soldotna community. But in and of itself, the idea of community beautification and public art makes it a nicer place for everybody.”

Photo courtesy of Mark Dixson, city of Soldotna. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague, left, presents a plaque to Kelly Keating and Geri Litzenberger at the ribbon-cutting for the new Soldotna Art Park, in appreciation of their contributions to the construction and design of the installation.

Photo courtesy of Mark Dixson, city of Soldotna. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague, left, presents a plaque to Kelly Keating and Geri Litzenberger at the ribbon-cutting for the new Soldotna Art Park, in appreciation of their contributions to the construction and design of the installation.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, community, Soldotna

Plugged In: Don’t let wireless be lacking in data security

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Internet communications can be likened to walking in a beautiful but snake-infested jungle — you need to watch where you step. Train yourself and those around you to be security conscious.

Computer security is as much commonsense and a security-conscious mindset as it is a specific program or piece of hardware. For others to compromise your security, they must first have some sort of “in,” whether physical penetration, operating system security deficits that have not been identified and repaired, or the surreptitious installation of malicious software by infected removable storage media, from other infected computers on your office network or delivered as an Internet payload.

  • Avoid the back alleys of computing that are especially likely to mug your data or privacy. Some Internet sites look and sound like the real thing but are silently redirected to scammers. This practice is termed “phishing” but can be readily countered by turning on the “phishing filter” in most browsers, avoiding redirected websites and using some common sense. Although an old exploit, it’s still very common. In fact, I recently saw this occur with TED talks, of all things.
  • Never give out personal and financial data of any sort in response to email. Be especially wary of unsolicited emails to the effect that your login data or financial and bank account information should be verified or updated. These are often crude but frequently effective attempts to get enough information to victimize the unwary. If you really must make changes, then do so by telephone to an independently verified telephone number to your bank’s service department or a known good login site that you independently enter into your browser’s URL window.
  • Be particularly careful about opening the attachments to unsolicited email. This is a favored delivery mechanism for malicious payloads.
  • Always enable some sort of firewall program on every connected device, whether mobile or office-centric.
  • Avoid using remote access features that allow you to access and manipulate your office network. These can be severe security risks unless you set up what is termed a “virtual private network,” which uses a dedicated port for secure, automatically encrypted, two-way communication over the Internet. A VPN requires the same encryption keys on both ends, so it’s relatively safe. If at all possible, disable all forms of remote access into your devices.
  • One of the most important general security approaches is to ensure that your computer downloads and installs both routine and critical security and operating system updates. After ensuring that your system is up to date, check your general security settings, making a sensible balance between security and ease of use.
  •  Turn off the automatic execution by your Internet connection of scripting, Java, apps and Active-X components. Require that you be prompted to give affirmative permission before running them or altering your operating system, programs or apps. Doing so gives you at least a little bit of control over potentially rogue programs that might damage your system or compromise your privacy and security.

Wireless networking

Wi-Fi wireless networking can be relatively secure, and the latest .11n versions have reasonably good bandwidth. Unfortunately, we still see a fair number of wireless network users who do not implement whatever security their hardware allows.

Mobile computers and other devices with activated Wi-Fi hardware can be susceptible to ad hoc network intrusion. A few years ago, I spoke about computer security at the American Bar Association’s annual technology conference in Chicago, placing a $20 bill on the podium and challenging audience members to see whether they could connect to my notebook computer. It took some of the audience members less than three minutes to do so, even though there were no nearby Internet “hot spots.”

Most people don’t realize that the wireless connections of some Windows operating systems can silently make direct ad hoc connections to other unsecured Windows computers with peer file sharing activated. In such cases, a stranger can read your files and write to them without your knowledge.

I’ve personally observed wireless security breaches literally occurring in real time when Windows network bridging features surreptitiously connect one notebook computer’s wireless card to another wireless-equipped computer and use that rogue wireless connection to further connect to a business’s theoretically more secure, hard-wired network. It’s among the more significant problems that can occur when people use their own devices for business purposes. So-called rogue computers are then beyond any security measures instituted by the firm and can then infect other systems, compromising the security of the entire network.

While waiting at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after speaking about computing security to an American Bar Association technical conference, I startled a group of waiting passengers by simply turning on my notebook computer, watching as it detected and connected to powered-up notebook computers being carried down the concourse by other passengers. These people, of course, had not implemented even rudimentary wireless network security.

Bluetooth and Near Field devices are probably even less secure when used without sufficient care and knowledge of their connection methods. Always pair Bluetooth and Near Field devices in a secure area, then turn off discovery and lock down your Bluetooth to ensure that nothing but already paired, trusted devices can connect.

Losing flash disks

Those tiny, ubiquitous flash drives and memory cards are easy to lose. Inexpensive USB 3 flash drives now frequently store as much as 256 to 512 gigabytes of data. That’s larger than the hard disk capacity of many busineses’ central network file servers. Some newer devices, such as the Ironkey USB external hard disks and flash drives and Sandisk flash drives sold at Costco, include data encryption capabilities built into the drive. More expensive versions include biometric authentication devices. The Ironkey devices with biometric authentication are relatively expensive compared to the competition but are the safest option if you’re carrying sensitive data.

Computer security is inevitably a moving target requiring reasonable diligence in identifying technology that’s convenient and helpful without unduly jeopardizing security. Mobile computing and communication has not only the usual risks for office-centric systems but also security concerns unique to the mobile experience. If you use mobile devices and cloud service, then you’ll need to take into account the additional mobile concerns that we highlight in this article.

Art of satire contest

The Redoubt Reporter and ARTSpace, Inc., are sponsoring a satiric art writing contest open to everyone, with suitably satiric prizes. Parody pomposity! Release your inner philistine!

Good visual art either works or it doesn’t. Attaching pretentious, pompous writing that “explains” the image adds little value. Too often, though, boring images are subject to art “criticism” that seems to bear more resemblance to the writer’s inner projections than to the image itself or the artist’s intent.

In appreciation of delightfully horrid, florid writing, we’d like you to give it a try.

We’ve published several unmanipulated photos of real objects and scenes that appear abstract. Write some satiric commentary about one or more images, identifying which photo(s) you are satiring. Your parody should be plausible, pretentious-sounding and humorous.

I’m unwilling to hold anyone else’s images up to ridicule, so these are my own photos. Fire away! When the Redoubt Reporter publishes our favorite submitted satires, we’ll tell you what these photos really are.

The images and more information can be found here: www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.

Email entries to redoubtreporter@alaska.net. Be sure to mention which photo(s) you are referencing. Entries on each photo should be no more than 150 words. Tell us your name and a little about yourself — profession (or school you attend if you’re a student), where you live and any art background you might have. The deadline to enter is Dec. 7.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, photography, Plugged in

Seen and heard — Photovoice seeks to tell visual stories of community

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There’s photography that preserves a scene or moment — a pretty sunset or a snapshot at a family gathering — capturing whatever is in front of the lens. But the medium can also be used for more complex purposes, to tell a story, evoke a feeling or convey an idea.

Change 4 the Kenai is hoping people use the latter, abstract approach in its 2015 Photovoice Project to create the former, concrete results.

“It’s a data-collection effort to see how the community sees the resources here, or lack thereof.
It’s an opportunity to see our community through the lens of fellow community members,” said Shari Conner, program coordinator for the coalition.

Change 4 the Kenai is a coalition of individuals, area agencies, law enforcement officers, government officials and area businesses united to work toward connecting community members.

A community is made up of separate elements — economics, transportation and so on — united by connections, such as a sense of identity. As Change 4 the Kenai has discovered, the central Kenai Peninsula has a lot of separate elements going for it, but is lacking in connections to bring them all together.

“We did a connection survey, asking questions like, ‘Do you know your neighbors? Do you have contact with others outside your immediate family? Do you attend communitywide events?’ And the answers kept coming back ‘No, no, no,’” Conner said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, community, photography

Salmonfest still a feast of sound — Music festival changes name, not its approach to diverse music, entertainment

Photos courtesy of Salmonfest. Salmonfest bills itself as three days of love, music and fish —in this case a carved wooden salmon equipped with a torch to add some light to the night revelries.

Photos courtesy of Salmonfest. Salmonfest bills itself as three days of love, music and fish —in this case a carved wooden salmon equipped with a torch to add some light to the night revelries.

The three days of fish, love and music at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds each summer has a new name but all the old favorites the throngs of concertgoes have come to know and love.

When the Renewable Resources Foundation handed the festival off to the Homer-based Kachemak Bay Conservation Society this year, RRF kept its rights to the original Salmonstock name, so this year’s fifth annual festival became Salmonfest.

Jim Stearns, producer/manager, and much of the managing staff continued on with the festival this year. Really, not much has changed with Salmonfest other than the name and the weather — which was a spectacularly sunny improvement over the rain in past years.

Salmonfest maintained its successful recipe of blending a small-town country atmosphere with a highly charged music festival.

Last year’s festival drew more than 6,000 attendees. This year’s Salmonfest drew large crowds Saturday and Sunday following a slower- than-usual Friday, due to the traffic delay from an accident on the Seward Highway south of Girdwood. Many of those stuck in the delay Friday afternoon were treated to an impromptu concert from one of Salmonfest’s top-billing bands, The California Honeydrops from the Bay area, walking and playing their instruments along Turnagain Arm.

Salmonfest still prides itself on being a family friendly festival and the Small Fry was a big hit again, complete with animal petting, face painting and a giant outdoor slide.

salmonfest 2015The festival continued its educational component, with booths staffed by Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, The Wild Salmon Center, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cook Inletkeeper, Kenai Watershed Forum Stream Watch, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Salmon Beyond Borders, Save the Chuitna and the Save the Susitna organizations.

The tastes of Salmonfest gets better and better each year. From food vendors hawking grilled cheese and nan bread stuffed with delectable goodies to Alaska-fresh seafood, the hungry could find it all — Thai, Mexican, Cajun and other cultural cuisines to the simple fair offerings of burgers, dogs, fries, pizza, cotton candy and pulled pork.

As in years past, Salmonfest featured the work of artist Ray Troll adorning the stages, buildings and in merchandise booth.

One of the more popular activities of the weekend was the aerial group photo in the rodeo grounds Saturday with more than 400 participants. Homer artist Mavis Muller is the director/facilitator of this human mosaic. Muller also brought along Fireball, a huge woven alder branch sculpture, where it was on display near the Ocean Stage.

The music, though, continues to be the biggest draw. Stearns uses his years of expertise managing tours for the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia to blend in a mix of established bands, headliners and up-and-coming acts from across Alaska and the country.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, entertainment, music, Ninilchik

Home, where the art is — Auction is legacy of arts in the area

Artwork by Zirrus VanDevere, including this piece that began as a sort of travelogue of her trip to Alaska in 1988, and work by other area artists will be up for auction at a Artistic Revelry and Art Auction Celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre.

Artwork by Zirrus VanDevere, including this piece that began as a sort of travelogue of her trip to Alaska in 1988, and work by other area artists will be up for auction at a Artistic Revelry and Art Auction Celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Five young, hippie artists and two cats spending six weeks driving cross-country in a 1977 Dodge Aspen pulling a Nimrod pop-up trailer, heading from New York to Alaska in 1988.

That backdrop alone paints quite the lively picture, one that artist Zirrus VanDevere mined for inspiration years later in one of her favorite mixed-media pieces. It and much more artwork, by VanDevere and others, will be up for auction Saturday in an art celebration at Triumvirate Theatre.

The auction is a sort of goodbye — for now, at least — to Alaska, as VanDevere has been in New York the last two years to be with her ailing father. So it’s fitting to include a piece that represents her journey to the state.

She and her friends were barely out of college, with barely any money between them and not much more in the way of a plan to get to their loosely chosen destination — Kasilof, where the sister of VanDevere’s boyfriend, later husband, was living.

“It was a bizarre experience,” she said. “We had so many circumstances that could have gone wrong, and it didn’t. We had some good mojo going.”

The tape deck in the car catching fire, prompting everyone to bail out through the car’s windows, as they’d become accustomed to doing on the two doors that stuck, even though two other doors worked just fine.

VanDevere window frameThe most straight-laced police officer letting their hippie mobile go without a ticket, merely the addition of two dangling flashlights to serve as rear trailer lights.

A border guard wanting to inspect everything in the car and trailer — which would have required a mammoth feat of unpacking, and perhaps some creative explaining. But the guard got so invested in helping search for the cat that bolted in the process that, once reunited, they were sent on their way, unsearched.

The theme of the trip was precipitation. There was a drought across the Lower 48 that year, yet every time they stopped to camp, it rained within a day or two.

“We visited with the neighbors (at a campsite in the Dakotas),” she said. “They said, ‘It’s so hot, it’s so dry!’ We’re like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s coming!’ We left in a hailstorm, I kid you not, and then it poured for days. We were like, ‘OK, time to move on, it’s raining.’”

Getting to the Kenai Peninsula, though, was more precipitous than precipitation.

“In my mind I was thinking I’d keep going. ‘Siberia, Russia, Europe — OK, I can see that, that could be interesting.’ But within a month I was looking for land. I was instantly smitten. I didn’t move five miles from where we dropped down, not five,” she said. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Art Seen, community

Plugged In: Create art opportunity in the space you live

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Alaska’s recent budget crisis highlights the economic risks of depending largely on natural resource extraction industries beyond effective local influence and direction.

Resource-extraction economies, whether extracting timber, oil or salmon, too often experience boom-and-bust cycles caused by external factors about which local residents and businesses can do little or nothing. Markets change on a global basis. Resources are depleted. Industry economics are affected by distant environmental and regulatory changes. Decisions that make or break a local or statewide economy are made in corporate board rooms and governmental offices thousands of miles away, unaffected by local influence, control and oversight.

Although resource-extraction industries will always be a critical and valued foundation of Alaska’s economy, a long memory is not required to recall what happens to local residents and businesses when crude oil, salmon and timber prices slide. It’s only prudent to hedge against that economic volatility.

Some troubled resource-dependent areas have regained a measure of local economic control and have enhanced their local economies by improving their visual and cultural attractiveness, becoming destinations rather than just places to stop for gas along the way. Some examples include Park City, Utah; Mendocino, California; and our own Kenai Peninsula neighbor, the city of Seward.

Promoting their natural beauty, these areas have attracted a stronger economic base that’s less affected by the booms and busts of natural resource industries. In most of these instances, the common thread is generally a business, private, government partnership to regenerate local economies and property values through civic beautification, public art and a more interesting and vibrant local cultural scene.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, community, Plugged in

Drawing on new experience — Festival puts emerging artists on center stage

Photos courtesy of Bill Heath. Julie Drake, of Anchorage, shows off one of the art quilts that won her first place in the Alaska Emerging Artist Competition, held May 23 as part of the  Soldotna Memorial Day Public Art Festival at Soldotna Creek Park.

Photos courtesy of Bill Heath. Julie Drake, of Anchorage, shows off one of the art quilts that won her first place in the Alaska Emerging Artist Competition, held May 23 as part of the Soldotna Memorial Day Public Art Festival at Soldotna Creek Park.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When she heard her name announced, Julie Drake couldn’t quite believe she’d won the Alaska Emerging Artist Competition and its $1,000 first prize, held as part of the Soldotna Memorial Day Public Art Festival on May 23 at Soldotna Creek Park.

“She’s like, ‘Me? Me? No!’ And you kind of stood there for a minute and we’re like, ‘Come on!’” said Shauna Thornton, one of the organizers of the festival.

Then again, the whole concept of being an “artist” is still pretty new to Drake. The Anchorage book retailer has been a quilter for years, but she only started making art quilts in the last couple of years.

She saw a call for entries for the art competition and thought, why not? And on Saturday, when the winners were announced, her question became, who, me?

“I thought it was pretty exciting and it’s kind of good affirmation. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, doing the bookstore thing, so it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m good at something else, too,’” Drake said.

Amy Kruse, of Kasilof, found validation in the competition, as well. She, like many of the artists at the festival, fits her artwork in among the demands of life. She would like to do more with her painting, but finding the time and the confidence to pursue it can be a challenge.

“I have an 18-month-old so it can be very, like a balancing act to do stuff like this. And it was difficult really to get everything ready. What matters the most to me is spending the time with my son, and then second is painting and stuff, and third is housework,” Kruse said.

Her work was recognized with second place. And beyond the $300 prize, she also felt rewarded with encouragement and impetus to do more.

“It means a lot to me personally to boost my morale to keep doing what I’m doing, to push myself a little bit more because it obviously does accomplish something,” she said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under art, community