Making a list of a handful of bright moments from the past year in the arts is a great way to renew your appreciation for the bounty we Juneauites enjoy on a daily basis, in part because the task is virtually impossible. How can you narrow it down? For me, the only way to approach it is to view the list as an arrow, rather than a box; the items I listed don’t make up a finite group, but point the way toward many more.
This year we asked others in the arts community to contribute their own lists of five things that really stood out for them over the course of the year. They are presented here in a spirit of celebration and gratitude for the amazing artistic energy concentrated in our small city, expressed through the work of so many hearts, minds and hands.
• “Who’s Your Diva”: a highly entertaining night of music featuring widely divergent talents, and a well-executed fundraiser for Juneau Lyric Opera. Shona Strauser is my Diva.
• “The 39 Steps”: A fun and funny play with a great cast and crew.
• Alaska Folk Festival: Always a bright spot! Collette Costa’s set and Grant Dermody’s harmonica workshop were standouts.
• [Title of Show]: An improbable premise – show about writing a show - that really worked as a musical and a comedy, with great performances and catchy songs.
• The Goldtown Nickelodeon: An art phenomenon of 2011, the reinvigorated theater hosted music and special events as well as movies galore. Truly a bright spot in Juneau.
— Riley Woodford
• George Rogers’ Celebration of Life: This great Alaskan’s life celebrated at Centennial Hall, with many arts groups, professional groups, political groups, and friends. George and his wife Jean have been so important to Alaska’s development, and to Juneau’s impressive cultural life.
• Perseverance Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”: A beautiful production of this Christmas classic, directed by Ryan Conarro, with a great performance of Scrooge by Dick Reichman, and with a real community-minded feel and emphasis on Juneau’s local talent.
• Juneau Symphony “Sweeney Todd”: A great production of this Broadway classic, directed by Kyle Pickett, with outstanding performances by Marta Lastufka and Philippe Damerval.
• Handel’s Messiah”: A community production of this celebrated classic, featuring Juneau debut performances by many great soloists, with orchestra and large ensembles of youth, high school, and adult choirs.
• Juneau Alaska Music Matters, at Glacier Valley Elementary, spearheaded by Alaska teacher of the year, Lorrie Heagy.
— Bruce Simonson
• Helen Watkins, Ed Kunz and others who shared their knowledge of the Art of Place at UAS
• Marsha Hotch’s Tlingit language students reading “Aanka Xootzi ka Aasgutu Xootzi Shkalneegi” in the campus library
• Everything about the visit by acclaimed Cherokee author Thomas King and his partner Helen Hoy for 2011 One Campus One Book
• Robi Littlefield reading the Tlingit language with elders at the “Town Bear Forest Bear” book launch
• Every moment when students shared with me the value and meaning of their writing.
— Ernestine Hayes
• Native Jazz Quartet Alaska tour: Sitka’s Ed Littlefield gave jazz settings to traditional Tlingit lullabies, formed a top-notch jazz combo, cut an album, and toured the state. I caught this combo in Anchorage during their stop at the Taproot; they also performed at the JACC here in Juneau. Listening to the tunes, I felt like I was hearing something new and important and also just plain good; I think Littlefield (who’s now based in Seattle) is someone to keep an ear on. The quartet featured Christian Fabian on the bass (and they played some of Fabian’s original works, in addition to Littlefield’s); Reuel Lubag on keyboard; and Jason Marsalis wowing the ears on his vibraphone.
• The Alaska State Poetry Out Loud competition: At the JACC in February, listening to one high schooler after the other intone the rich language of poems both classical and contemporary, I felt very glad that Alaska participates in the National Endowment for the Art’s Poetry Out Loud recitation competition, and that I was lucky enough to be there to listen to the state championship. When Fairbanks teen Lakeidra Chavis took the stage in the final round and recited “Domestic Violence” by Eavan Boland, I was transported; she seemed to become a sage, far beyond her years. I went home to read and re-read the poem; Chavis went to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national competition.
• ”Reincarnation of Stories,” by Ishmael Hope and directed by Flordelino Lagundino, co-produced by Generator Theater and Perseverance Theatre: The team for “Reincarnation of Stories,” an original piece by Ishmael Hope and directed by Generator artistic director Flordelino Lagundino, brought together a braid of traditional Tlingit stories and re-told them with four performers on the Perseverance Theatre stage. Hope and Lagundino resisted any impulse to over-theatricalize the storytelling; instead, the production stuck with a simpler mode of storytelling that I imagine echoes more authentically the style of elder storytellers. The cast included Hope, as well as Frank Katasse, Erin Tripp, and Ed Littlefield. I’ll be looking for future writings by Hope, and for his future collaborations with Lagundino.
• Glacier Valley Elementary School’s JAMM violinists performing at Juneau Jazz & Classics Community Day: A sea of kindergarteners in bright blue t-shirts culminated their year as the inaugural class of Glacier Valley’s music education program by performing in the UAS Egan Library as part of Juneau Jazz & Classics. I thought their “E String Concerto” was a tour de force — and, as you might have guessed from the name of the piece, it featured the musicians playing just one note over and over again. But these were kindergarteners; and there were dozens and dozens of them; and I had the distinct feeling that I was witnessing the future of Juneau’s booming music scene. This was one of many events in 2011 that captured the vibrancy of Juneau’s arts education movement. Music teacher and education visionary Lorrie Heagy accompanied the musicians with chord progressions on the piano. She heads the program -- called “Juneau Alaska Music Matters” -- along with lead violin teacher Guohua Xia. JAMM expanded this fall to include the incoming kindergarten class.
• AWARE’s “Choose Respect” community mural project: At May’s First Friday gallery walk at the JACC, I confronted my own fear of paintbrushes -- and I even enjoyed myself doing it. The project was a strong example of Juneau’s community-arts collaborations: the AWARE domestic violence shelter and an organization called Lead On teamed up with young leaders, AWARE residents and community members to create an art piece that encouraged reflection and dialogue. The project was led by AWARE’s Ati Nasiah and visual artist Sarah Conarro (I’m her brother; I hope I’m still allowed to mention this event as a top five!).
— Ryan Conarro
• The memorable JDHS performance of “The Music Man.” I’d seen the play on Broadway 51 years earlier, and some aspects of this high-school performance were just as good. I’m thinking particularly of the choreography by Shanae’a Moore and the singing and perfectly timed acting of Jacob Miller.
• The stunning performance by Philippe Damerval in the title rôle of the expertly played and semi-staged performance of “Sweeney Todd” by the Juneau Symphony Orchestra. Other rôles, such as Kathleen Wayne’s Beggar Woman and Marta Lastufka’s Mrs. Lovett, were excellently portrayed, too. I’d seen the work performed by 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and was every bit as impressed by this one – if not more so.
• Alaskapella’s exciting performance for students and staff at UAS. Even though I’d conducted several choruses in Juneau, I’d never come up with the balance, pitch, vocal sound, and verve to equal this one. Congratulations to Kristina Paulick for establishing and leading this exceptionally fine group!
• The virtuosic and sensitive recital by Linda Rosenthal and Sue Kazama at UAS. I can’t imagine any reviewer’s not being impressed by that one.
• The many artistic presentations that I missed during the year. Juneau has an abundance of them!
— John d’Armand
• Nora Dauenhauer—Kheiwxnéi’s speech at the Andrew Hope III, Jim Bowen and Marcus Brady Khoo.éex’, Memorial Ceremony, hosted by the S’iknaxh.ádi and Kaagwaantaan clans in Sitka. When a tradition bearer speaks in the Tlingit language, the spirits are mingling with the fire dishes and herring eggs and pilot bread and smoked salmon. I was able to understand some of the speech, and later Nora told me that she was speaking directly to my grandmother Christine Littlefield, and she talked about the Yéik, the spirits, which are the most powerful At.óow, sacred objects. The Yéik she was using was the Naatúxjayi tunic woven by Jennie Thlunaut—Shax’sáani Kéek’, to remove the grief of my grandmother and her clan.
• Rob Roys’ art show at Annie Kaill’s. Rob Roys’ lines are the lines the earth makes when it dries. He weaves figures into his abstractions and they flow together seamlessly, hopeful evidence that the human touch can dance with — and not just harm, dominate, or be blind to — being.
• Clarence Jackson’s — Asxh’aak, Daanaawú, Galtín, Tá Ghooch — speech at the memorial for the greatly respected Khaajaakhwtí, Walter Soboleff, brought ancestral strength and tenderness to the packed house at Centennial Hall in May. He brought out the Keet X’óow, the Killer Whale Blanket of the Tsaagweidí, to wrap around the grieving clans’— the Aanxh’aakhittaan, the L’eeneidí, and all of the Yéil, Raven clans— shoulders, so their tears will not fall on the earth. He spoke this in Tlingit, and by speaking it well and with sensitivity and grace, he did just as his ancestors have always done, which is to heal and to deeply move his people with his words. This is what Clarence Jackson, and Cyril George—Khaalkháawu, Nora Dauenhauer—Kheixwnéi, George Ramos—Wooch Jixhoo Éesh, Herman Davis—Yéil Tlein, and the 200-some Tlingit speakers are capable of doing in their speeches, and if you listen closely, you will hear the ancestors, too.
• [title of show], music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, directed by Tommy Schoffler and Flordelino Lagundino, and featuring Enrique Bravo, Allison Holtcamp, Kari Groven and Lagundino and accompaniment by Rosie Humphrey, co-produced by Generator Theater and Perseverance Theatre. This ironic, self-aware spectacular had a broader audience than clever 20-somethings because of the genuine enthusiasm and joy emanating from the cast, under the direction of Schoffler and Lagundino. Working hard and taking his own financial and artistic risks, Flordelino Lagundino has consistently put up excellent theater.
• Marie Olson—Kaayistaan telling the Dukt’óotl’, Strong Man story to the Juneau School District’s CARES students. In November, Kristy Dillingham invited Mary Folletti — Daaljíni, Marie, and me to talk to high school students about leadership. We were treated to the timeless story of inner strength, Duktl’óotl’, by Marie, a tradition bearer and community leader who has dedicated her life to her people. All of Marie’s commitment and love poured through every sentence and gesture for the riveted students.
— Ishmael Hope
• Juneau tops the Creative Vitality Index released by the Alaska State Council on the Arts
• Arts council convenes a meeting of more than 60 community leaders to talk about ways to creatively build Juneau’s economy.
• Cabaret takes Juneau by storm throughout the year.
• Roller derby!
• Folk Fest is always a highlight ...
• ... as is Jazz & Classics, celebrating its 25th anniversary.
• The 8-foot bronze humpback whale sculpture “Spike,” by artist RT “Skip” Wallen, lands on the JACC lawn before its coming move to UAS.
— Nancy DeCherney
• “Our Town,” Theatre in the Rough: Thornton Wilder’s play about a small town was the perfect choice for the grand opening of the new McPhetres Hall theater. It’s a show that truly speaks to “community” – in this case, the community that came together after the Holy Trinity fire in 2006 to rebuild the church and recreation of McPhetres Hall.
• “The Blue Bear,” Perseverance Theatre: Each year Perseverance includes an Alaskan work in its schedule. This play was based on the book of the same name by Juneauite Lynn Schooler and written by his sister Luan, a former company member of the PT, now living in Portland beautifully depicts the friendship between Schooler and the late Japanese wildlilfe photographer Michio Hoshino. The acting and directing were great, but I was especially drawn to Akiko Nishijima Rotch’s set.
• Chuck Cooper at Jazz and Classics: Jazz & Classics is wonderful in and of itself, but featuring Tony-award winner Chuck Cooper was truly the highlight of this past year’s 25th Anniversary of the Festival for me.
• “Journey on the Wild Coast,” not only because it’s a beautiful piece documenting this amazing non-motorized journey along Alaska’s coast, but more so because local filmmaker Greg Chaney is living his dream to make movies. The fact that one is now an award-winner, makes that even sweeter. (Addendum: Along these lines, Alaska Robotics and Jump Society.)
• The “Who’s Your Diva” fundraiser: Juneau Lyric Opera’s ingenious fundraiser. While I didn’t get to go, I did get to hear one of the diva’s sing at Rotary and DID get to follow the advertising and promotion. Absolutely brilliant. I love it when organizations fundraise around what they do, when possible. Looking forward to next year.
• And: The Gold Town Nickelodeon, which continues to grow under Colette Costa’s leadership and creativity; Wearable Arts AND the Mayor’s Awards for the Arts on the Sunday performance; Jeff Brown winning the Governor’s “lifetime achievement’ arts award; Hit the JACC-Putt and everything else the arts council does, and the entire 25th anniversary Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival!
— Sharon Gaiptman
• The recent exhibits at the Alaska State Museum opening Nov. 4 are wonderful. They exhibit a range of artistic talent and themes, each of which vibrate with their own creative charge. “Boreal Birch, Art and Science in the Northern Forest” with Margo Klass, Barry McWayne and Kesler Woodward shows mature artists at work with a sensitivity to surface and light; Constance Baltuck’s “Solo Exhibition” rocked the landscape with intense color; Averyl Veliz’s personal narratives were charged with creativity and motion. Wandering into and out of each exhibit is exciting.
• Fairbanks painter Kesler Woodward taught an outdoor landscape painting class to the Plein Rein group in Juneau for a week in June. He is a retired professor of panting from the University of Fairbanks and is truly one of the most inspiring teachers in the field that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Kes has a talent for inspiring students to refine personal ideas and styles, rather than introduce blanket techniques and stylistic preferences.
• “The 39 Steps” at Perseverance Theatre was so much fun. The physical comedy, set design and transitions were clever, charming, funny, and well done. A comedic dance that kept the audience roaring with laughter.
• “Half Ton of Trouble” by James Kohn was this year’s clever local read. Kohn mirrors gold fever in the last frontier with Juneau’s small town quirkiness in a twenty-first century mad-cap. A must read for those who enjoy our Alaskan penchant for storytelling.
* Patrice Helmar’s photographic exhibit at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum April-September 2011, “Honeymoon Tonight,” was stunning. Helmar took close-ups of boats and skiff surfaces and printed them on metal. Her poetic and personal narratives transformed the abstract fields of colors and textures into icons of the past.
— Jane Lindsey
• Watching the Barrow Eskimo Dancers invite Mr. and Mrs. Parnell to dance: The Barrow Eskimo Dancers were memorable in their own right, and drew a large, diverse, and beautiful crowd to see them. But the best moment was when they thanked Mr. and Mrs. Parnell for being there, and then insisted that they join them for a dance onstage. Gov. Parnell squatted down with his hands out, listening carefully to the dance leader, trusting and following his every motion. Art moves people. Literally.
• Nahaan singing a song in Tlingit for my son: I had a “soul party” for my son for close friends and family to offer him blessings, make him promises, and give me a chance to say thank you for being a part of our lives and guiding him in the right direction. My friend Nahaan gave my son an eagle feather and brought his drum out to the beach to sing him a song of beauty and strength in Tlingit. It takes a village, y’all. We are blessed to be a part of this one.
• Gina Frickey’s sun drop painting: An artist at The Canvas showed me a painting she had just finished. It was a landscape, with all these drops falling from the sky that you might have mistaken for raindrops. But they were yellow, coming from the sun. They were sun drops. It was pouring down sun drops!
• Healing vibes video for a poet: I didn’t want to include moments at events that I helped organize, but I have to say this one because it’s a good example of how community art is so much bigger than its organizers. There was a young woman who had read at a few of our Poetry Slams, and then was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With her permission we told the audience, and suggested we send her a video sending good healing vibes. Wow! We turned on the camera and people clapped and cheered and blew kisses her way. Then we weren’t strangers at a poetry reading anymore. We were family.
• Beth’s Fibonacci sequence sweater: One day I ran into Beth of Capital Copy. I complimented her on her colorful striped sweater. “Thanks,” she said. “I knit it using the Fibonacci sequence.” And that’s how Beth takes knitting to a whole new level.
— Christy NaMee Eriksen
• Best Damn Irish Band: Slide, who played in September. Crazy energy, beautiful voices, and hearty drinkers, the Irish trifecta. Thanks JAHC!
• Best Damn Burlesque: Mod Carousel, in August, proved that burlesque is alive, kicking, and about so much more than taking off your incredibly-designed clothes! Thanks Deb!
• Best Damn Fiddle-Playin’ Frenchman: Gilles Apap, who visited in April, graced us once again with an awe-inspiring concert worthy of the best concert halls in the world. Thanks Lis & Greg!
• Best Damn Cajun Night: Waaay back in February we had a visit from Ray-Jen Cajun, from Homer, who killed it all night with two-steps and waltzes, accompanied by some great vitals. Lookin’ forward to hearing them again this year. Thanks Maridon and Sergei!
• Best Damn Fund Raiser Ever: Buddy Tabor’s magical evening of music will live in hearts for years to come. Thanks everyone!
• Best Damn Runner-Up: Though not technically an “arts” event, the completely original and perfectly Alaskan “Blessing of the Biscuit” stands out as my absolute favorite event of the year. Held in August on the top of a parking garage, the high priest of flakiness, Wayne Ward, and over 100 residents, celebrated the greatness of biscuits and gravy. It was weird, spontaneous, community-centered, and delicious. Thanks Wayne and Tony!
— Collette Costa
• Opening night of “Our Town” in the New McPhetres Hall, the real, live theater inside the parish hall of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Talk about bright spot. Five years in the making. Comfy chairs. Fancy lights. Moving show. In the walk to that moment, I passed through every mood imaginable, met with some of the most amazingly generous people I’ve ever known, spent 10 days in Bartlett, and reinvented the way I eat and live and work. Transformative.
• Discovering that when performing in McPhetres, you really can’t hear anything coming from the rehearsal hall across the lobby. We performed “Midsummer” on a paid show night at the same time as a full voice rehearsal of “La Boheme” and neither party heard a peep from the other. It actually worked.
• Theatre in the Rough got to tour “Midsummer” in Petersburg. Not exactly a high spot for Juneau but it was a little bit of Juneau enjoyed by our neighbors. And at the end, they stood up and cheered.
• I got to use a new sculpting medium. It’s basically a two-part epoxy in a dough-like form. Wonderful. No telling what a person could make with this stuff.
• Personal breakthrough of finally getting a glimpse of understanding as to what Ukiyo-e -- the Japanese woodblock prints depicting “the floating world” -- were really all about. I finally got past the meticulous compositions and incredible technical achievement and closer to the heart of the matter. A real joy. I don’t know what it means for the floating world of Juneau. Yet.
— Aaron Elmore
• The annual “Midwinter Vocal Festival” final performance last January, conducted by Dr. Byron McGilvray.
• Becky and Ariana Orford, mother and daughter, together onstage in Theatre in the Rough’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
• Opening night of Juneau Lyric Opera’s production of “La Boheme” on the new stage at McPhetres Hall.
• My wife’s performance in the Juneau Symphony Orchestra’s production of “Sweeney Todd.”
• The Alaska Youth Choir Holiday concert.
— Dan Wayne
• Completing the “Wetland Wings” sculpture at the airport, with my wife Janice Criswell.
• “Unveiling” the hat exhibit which I curated at the Alaska State Museum.
• The developing plans for the new State Library, Archives, and Museums building.
• Seeing an original “Ravens Tail” robe and other Alaska Native artifacts at the British Museum.
• Jeff Brown’s lifetime achievement award from Gov. Parnell.
— Steve Henrikson
• Chuck Cooper’s “Miles of Styles” concert for Juneau Jazz & Classics. I get goosebumps just thinking about this man’s rich, resonant voice and the hauntingly beautiful songs he performed.
• Jazz jam session at the Lucky Lady, led by saxophonist Claire Daly and her band. Another Jazz & Classics feature, this jam session reminded me that we have a ton of brilliant and talented jazz musicians right here in Juneau.
• “ Sweeney Todd,” performed by the Juneau Symphony. From my spot in the chorus, I can say that Juneau musicians and singer/actors performed this extremely difficult Sondheim show beautifully. It was a tour de force.
• “La Boheme,” produced by Juneau Lyric Opera. This show was a gem in a lovely simple setting. The energetic troupe of lively young singers charmed audiences every night of the run.
• “Messiah,” conducted by Bruce Simonson. It’s hard to describe the thrill of being one voice among many in a large chorus. You feel like a small but essential strand in a complex and beautifully woven tapestry. Goosebumps again!
— Laura Haywood
• Nicholas Galanin (Silver Jackson) at the Alaskan
• Buddy Tabor fundraiser
• Jeff Brown tribute
• Harrison B at the UAS Rec Center.
— Katie Bausler
• “Marwencol,” the movie, at the Goldtown Nickelodeon
• Cook County Blues Band at the benefit for Buddy Tabor
• Ed Littlefield’s jazz show (Native Jazz Quartet at the JACC)
• Rob Roys’ December exhibit at Annie Kaills
• Ricky Tagaban and Bridget Milligan teaming up to make beautiful purses and such.
• And Penny Arcade at The Rendezvous.
— Shona Strauser
• Those beards the Alaska Robotics guys grew for the 2011 World Bearding Championships; as if I didn’t feel enough beard envy already (thank you very much Zach Galifianakis).
• That bronze humpback whale outside the JACC that they just kept embellishing and embellishing and embellishing; literally, every day there was something new: decorative plaques, then paving stones, then a giant projected outline on the building itself. For a statue, that thing’s got mad accessories, yo.
• Halloween in the Flats. You guys really outdid yourselves this year, particularly that house with the haunted carport and that other one handing out full size Twix.
• The closing of the downtown McDonald’s and the location’s subsequent rebirth as a bead store.
— Geoff Kirsch
• Poetry in the streets in April: This wonderful event sponsored by the Canvas included music, art and literary connections. Franklin Street was closed off from Second to Third Streets, and local organizations and businesses offered street art, haikus, dancing and readings.
• “Gather Inspiration Focus on Writing” series at the Downtown Library September-November: Peggy Shumaker, Alaska Writer laureate; Ana Maria Spagna, Identity and Wilderness; David Vann, Darkness on the Last Frontier; Alaska Native heritage writers Nora and Richard Dauenhauer, Carol Feller Brady and Lance Twitchell.
• Roustabout Circus at the Douglas Community Library and Fire Hall on July 2: Daniel Sloan and Morgan Langham of the Roustabout Circus astounded their audience of kids and adults with acrobats, juggling and showmanship followed by a workshop for kids.
— Carol Race
• The three Canvas street parties we organized last summer: Christy Eriksen’s Poetry Street Party, the Jazz Party the Canvas and Juneau Jazz & Classics coordinated together, and the Music Street Party featuring dueling junk bands, kids playing kelp flutes and visiting Zimbabwean musicians.
* Wearable Arts has become the most important annual event on my calendar, and “Illuminate” was the best yet. I love that the event supports the mission of the JAHC, and the funds raised support local artists. But most importantly the wearable art that is created in jaw-dropping! I am happy to buy tickets for my whole family to this event every year.
• “The Blue Bear” at Perseverance Theatre was an amazing production. I was inspired to read the book before attending the play, and I suggest everyone read it! Both the book and the stage adaption are inspiring, beautiful stories.
* Artist Chris Taylor has is an amazing teacher and artist. His drawing and painting classes have given me the confidence to launch into my own artistic practice. I thank Chris for introducing me to oil painting and prompting me to think about drawing from new perspectives.
* Namee and Nahaan’s monthly Poetry Slam blows me away every month. Who knew there were so many poets and writers of all ages in Juneau?! My favorite slam this year was “Superheroes and Villains.”
— MK MacNaughton
• The Sho-Globe project – part of the “common space” program from the Alaska Design Forum. Rebar was Juneau’s invited guest artists, but there was also concurrent projects going on throughout different cities in the state.
• Watching the Gold Town Nickelodeon becoming a viable and functional independent arts theater and venue hosting a great variety of movies and events – in particular showing “Sons of Perdition” and then skyping in the director – documentary nights, late night cult movie nights (yeah! “Rubber” and “Hobo with a Shotgun”) music and improv nights, etc, etc.
• The high quality of both the JAHC and UAS juried art shows. Both were really impressive and seemed to include quite a few of the “new generation” of up and coming local artists.
• Wearable Arts
• The Canvas – still impressed with their role in the arts and community at large
• Alaska Robotics’ new film shorts at JDHS
• Opening of Basement Studios (glass shop across from the Alaskan brewery.)
• Personal: Getting into the “Earth, Fire, Fibre XXVIII” exhibit.
— Rachael Juzeler
• Woosh kinaadeiyi poetry slam from the Canvas. This year the town has come together over poetry, poetry slams and poetry block parties. Language is alive!
• Alaska Robotics screening of short films. This collection of Juneau and humor themes movies remind us of why we live in such a great state
• First Fridays all year long. This staple of Juneau art culture has expanded in the past several years to every month and to include so many businesses that’s it’s difficult to hit them all. But I always have the best time trying
• The installation of “Spike” in front of the JACC for the summer. Seeing this breaching whale shadowed in front of the JACC building for the summer has brought tourists and locals alike a bit of Alaskan spirit
• Last but not least, “No Umbrellas” the fashion show for charity ranks right up there. As a contributor to the project it was wonderful to see people come together as a community for both Alaska fashion and to help hospice and home care. What a blast!
— Tanna Peters
• Dick Reichman’s performance as Scrooge in Perseverance Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”: Director Ryan Conarro steered a team of actors young and old in a pitch-perfect production that managed to remain true to the original and yet glow with new life. Lead actor Dick Reichman, of Anchorage, was mesmerizing; through him, Scrooge moved beyond his traditional boundaries (the human embodiment of greed) and reclaimed his self-protective humanity. The strength in Reichman’s performance came through not just in his delivery of Dickens’ lines but in the expressiveness of his face and the motions of his body. Beautiful to watch.
• Art of Place series at UAS: For me, this series provided an invaluable overview of some of the major traditional Native artforms practiced in Southeast for thousands of years. Moreover, it allowed audience members personal, conversational access to some of the top artists in the state. Organized by Ernestine Hayes and UAS Provost Rick Caulfield, the series featured weaver Della Cheney, weaver Clarissa Rizal, silver carver Ed Kunz, wood carver Doug Chilton, beader Florence Sheakley and local foods expert Helen Watkins. Each session was a mini-seminar, shaped by each artists’ personal history and approach to their art.
• New arts-minded businesses downtown: Figment became Juneau’s newest gallery this summer, and owners Alana Ballam-Schwan and Chad Medel quickly embraced the First Friday tradition -- providing live music to boot. A block away, Choco Boutique owners Manuel and Dana Hernandez continued to create lovely display windows featuring Dana’s one-of-a-kind couture creations, and this year also designed an amazing paper gown, displayed at Second and Seward Streets, in honor of the Poetry Street Party at the Canvas. Manuel also put in countless hours providing music to local events as DJ Manu. Up the hill from Choco, local interior designers Jeremy Bauer and Jason Clifton opened an office and showroom on Second Street this fall, while preparing their latest design plan for the upcoming Wearable Art show in February. Kudos to these six young business owners, who combine entrepreneurial drive with a dedication to the arts.
• The Juneau libraries’ author presentations: David Vann, Dana Stabenow, Peggy Shumaker and Richard and Nora Marks Dauenhauer were among the authors featured at the library this year -- exciting opportunities for local readers.
• Who’s Your Diva event at the JACC: Wow. The energy created at this fundraiser for Juneau Lyric Opera nearly busted out the walls of the JACC. I was especially enthralled by Alaska’s Kit singing “At Last,” Shona Strauser’s rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Kari Groven’s sultry “Lover You Should’ve Come Over.”
• Reading “Ordinary Wolves” by Seth Kanter and “The Last Light Breaking” by Nick Jans. Kanter’s novel, published in 2004, and Juneau author Jans’ nonfiction work, released in 1993, are very different books, but both explore themes of race and identity, isolation and belonging, tradition and cultural change. Above and beyond their themes, however, these are two immensely compelling narratives, alive with the unique voices and perspectives of their authors. Unforgettable modern Alaskan – and American — classics.
— Amy Fletcher
• My favorite thing this year was Juneau Symphony’s production of “Sweeney Todd.”
— Alana Ballam-Schwan
• All photos by Michael Penn except Wearable Arts (Klas Stolpe) and Blue Bear (Libby Sterling). Contact Arts editor Amy Fletcher at email@example.com.