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Artists spaces: Local artists open their studios to the public beginning on First Friday

Posted: October 6, 2011 - 12:01am
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The first open studio event of its kind begins this week on First Friday, and continues throughout the month of October.

Participating artists will have an art piece hanging at the Franklin Street Gallery at the Baranof Hotel, and most will have their art studios open for public viewing at different times during October.

This is a rare opportunity for people to visit artists’ private zones. You can see where artistic ideas are given life, in some cases, even in the absence of running water and heat.

Most participating artists have never opened their studios to the public. Many confessed they are using the pressure to get themselves organized. I caught up with a few of the artists in their spaces to chat about what they’re working on.

DOWNTOWN ARTISTS

Pua Maunau

Event organizer and artist Pua Maunau was inspired to coordinate the event during a trip to San Francisco several years ago where she attended a similar event while visiting her first painting teacher.

Maunau got her start painting in San Francisco in 1979. After seeing some paintings she loved at an art gallery in the Mission district, she inquired about the artist. He happened to be working in his fourth floor studio.

She complimented him in person and he offered to teach her how to paint. She went twice a week for four years and loved it.

Maunau painted in studios until she moved to Juneau in 1999 where she began painting outdoors. She and Barbara Craver formed Plein Rein, a group that meets weekly to paint outside.

“In Juneau you can’t help but paint outdoors,” said Maunau.

Barbara Craver

In July of this year Barbara Craver, a self-proclaimed recovering lawyer, moved her artist space from her small home basement to the Articorp building downtown, next to friend and fellow artist Constance Baltuck.

Having all her painting supplies together in one place has been helpful to Craver, as well as the separate space.

“Not having the distractions of being at home was wonderful, you know the laundry, the phone, a nice chair with a book,” said Craver with a laugh, “I decided to give it a try.”

Craver used Baltuck’s space to paint while Baltuck was artist-in-residence at Kobuk Valley National Park painting in the great sand dunes with bear scientists. Craver loved working in the studio and soon got a space of her own.

The two artists check in with each other in the morning, paint together outside and help each other with paintings. They use baby strollers to push their gear up mountains.

Constance Baltuck

Constance moved her studio from her home in January of this year and has a corner office in the Articorp building with spectacular views. The painting she picked for First Friday is of her friend’s daughter playing with ravens in her yard.

Baltuck has a show opening at the Alaska State Museum in November.

David Woodie

David Woodie has an artist’s space in the Emporium Mall downtown, upstairs from the Nickelodeon Gold Town Theatre. He promises to organize his studio for visitors.

“I’m going to get things cleared away, kick the wine bottles in the corner and put a table here,” said Woodie, who started his career drawing ships when he was 6 years old. He’s had his studio for about 12 years and also teaches at the University of Alaska Southeast.

When asked about his favorite painting subjects Woodie said with a belly laugh, “Well, there’s a whole lot of bare-naked ladies around here.” He doesn’t see that as a problem.

“I stopped counting at 60 naked people at the Sistine Chapel and that’s where the Pope prays, so we’re probably all right here.”

Woodie will have a show in the new Figment Gallery in December.

John Hughes

Hughes has been carving since 2004, and has been in his space at Ravensong Studio on Franklin Street since February. He studied under renowned carver Nathan Jackson.

Hughes was a laid-off mechanic from Willy’s Marine who asked the owner to use the mechanics room in the Ravensong Studio building where he also lived. The owner offered him the then-papered-up studio to use so he could get work. He now works late into the night on commissioned pieces.

He also uses the space to teach classes on Bentwood box making, and he sells other artists’ work on consignment. He’s thrilled with his new occupation.

“I love it, this is what I’m good at,” he said. “It took me forever to find it.”

Jim Fowler

Fowler has an artist space in his basement studio in the flats. He has flat files and lots of open space to create his landscapes, but he has also illustrated books and magazines over the years.

He just returned from four weeks of painting in the Yukon. He begins his pieces outside on full size canvases, then takes them back to his studio to complete.

“I spend about the same amount of time on the paintings inside as I do outside,” Jim said.

He tries to keep a photo journal of the landscapes he paints, with the painting set up on the easel outside.

Jim has a show at Artique Ltd. Gallery in Anchorage in November.

Jerry Smetzer

Retired Fish and Game computer IT employee Smetzer enjoys working in the visual arts. He paints and draws in his living room and works on animation and motion graphics in another room.

“I never got to do this fun stuff while I was working,” said Smetze, who entered a short piece called “The Sphinx Speaks History” to a JUMP Film Festival awhile back.

MID TOWN ARTISTS

Tasha Walen and Lincoln Farabee

Basement Studios has moved from Douglas Island to a spot in midtown Juneau (Lemon Creek). They rented a spacious unit with a loft so they have more room to create and expand.

Walen works with REACH artists who will also have open studio times in October.

VALLEY ARTISTS

Sarah Dunlap

Sarah Dunlap’s studio has been 10 years in the making. Located at her home in the valley, Dunlap’s handy husband added a second story to their home off River Road. It’s a bright space for Dunlap to work on her paintings and abstract pieces.

She’s loved art since she was a little girl and got excited when a stranger bought her first piece of art.

“This was a stranger, it wasn’t a friend or a relative, a stranger came to town and liked my painting and bought it and took it back to Australia. I thought— that is just fantastic.” She’s currently working on a three dimensional piece with salmon and recycled metal.

Michelle Morrell

Michelle Morrell is a painter and pottery maker who has space for both passions in her valley home. A converted wood shed on the side of their house holds a kiln and pottery supplies and it’s plumbed for propane. She uses a spare bedroom to paint.

Morrell has been making art since 1976 and will be displaying a pottery piece. She has her prints made at Taku Graphics and has been a member of the Juneau Artist Gallery since 2004. She’ll have her studio open Oct. 30.

Sharron Lobaugh

Lobaugh has a large yet cozy open floor plan with a wood stove and sink out on Fritz Cove Road. She has oil, print and watercolor paintings from travels through Europe and Alaska, and she specializes in painting the Mendenhall Glacier. She had a show featuring the glacier’s dramatic recession over the years.

She also runs a framing business from her studio. She used to teach painting at the Juneau Douglas High School and UAS, and has taught workshops as well.

More on open studios

Open Studios participating artists are Constance Baltuck, Basement Studios (with Tasha Walen and Lincoln Farabee), Mostapha Beya, Kaelen Buettner-Burke, Sarah Conarro, Barbara Craver, Sarah Dunlap, Jim Fowler, Mary Ellen Frank, Dan Fruits, John Hughes, Miah Lager, Sharron Lobaugh, Jackie Manning, Pua Maunu, Sherri McDonald, Michelle Morrell, Alan Munro, REACH artists at The Canvas, David Riccio, Charles Rohrbacher, Phoebe Rohrbacher, Paul Sargent, Jerry Smetzer, Spiral Studios’ Nell McConahey, Jane Stokes, Chris Taylor, James Voelckers, Arnie Weimer, David Woodie and more.

Information for studio visits will be available at the Franklin Street Gallery throughout the month.

• Courtney Nelson can be reached at nelsonfamily@acsalaska.net.

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