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Second season of Art of Place kicks off Friday

Posted: January 26, 2012 - 12:00am

The second annual Art of Place lecture and demonstration series begins Friday with “Art of Place as History,” led by Steve Henrikson and Janice Criswell. The presentation begins at 10 a.m. in the Glacier View Room in the Egan Library wing at University of Alaska Southeast.

Organizer Ernestine Hayes, assistant professor of English at UAS, said she was very pleased by the success of last year’s series, and excited for the opportunity to continue it this year. Last year, each of the six events focused on a different traditional Tlingit artform — such as weaving or carving — and was led by a prominent local Native artist. Audience members got a chance to try their hand at adzing a totem pole with Doug Chilton, to sample freshly whipped soap-berries with Helen Watkins, and to see Clarissa Rizal at work on a Chilkat blanket, among many other memorable experiences.

“I’ve had so many comments about all of them,” Hayes said. “I’m still carrying those images around.”

For the second season, Hayes has changed the format a bit.

“Last year was great, but I’d like to take different looks at art and at place each time we have that opportunity,” she said.

This year’s four-part series explores Alaska Native art and place in four ways— Art of Place as History, as Future, as Identity and as Sustenance — and opens the format up for participation from the audience.

“I thought some of those aspects of art, looking at them different ways — as identity and as history, as future and as sustenance — would give us a way not only to look at place differently, look at art differently, but also I’m really hoping that community members and students and people who attend might bring their stories (to share).”

Hayes said her approach was inspired in part by Thomas King’s visit to campus last year. King’s book, “The Truth About Stories”, was the featured work for the One Campus One Book program, a project that encourages story sharing and community connections — both on campus and off. Hayes hopes the Art of Place series will continue to strengthen that web.

In planning this year’s events, she was also moved by something that happened last year. Following Florence Sheakley’s presentation on traditional beading, a member of the audience brought out a blanket she made. It was an ah-ha moment for Hayes.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s just brilliant, why didn’t I think of that?’ and that was on my mind that whole time,” Hayes said.

This year audience members may choose to share a story or an art piece after the presentation, or nothing at all, as they wish. They could decide to share with the group, or with the artists alone. Hayes said that though she hopes the sharing will reflect that week’s focus, the interconnectedness of the topics makes it easy for any sharing to be relevant.

“I do hope that what they bring will illuminate that particular month’s focus. but to tell the truth, since everything is so connected, it would be hard to share something that didn’t trace itself back to any of those aspects.”

Hayes said Henrikson and Criswell’s presentation will be a great way to start things off.

“They have so many things they know about -- the stories behind some of these artifacts that we read in the paper and wonder about and talk to each other about — they’ve seen the whole process,” she said.

Henrikson is curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum, and Criswell is a highly regarded weaver.

Projects the couple have been involved in include the restoration of a traditional fish trap found at Montana Creek and the creation of a replica of the trap, which is now housed at the Juneau Douglas City Museum.

Other speakers in this year’s series are Ed and Percy Kunz and Helen Watkins.

Hayes said she hopes the series continues to grow and to attract both students and community members.

“I really think that is a valuable connection between the community and the university. I was just overjoyed to see so many community people (last year) and I believe that we’ll have as many, perhaps more, community people, as well as more students.”

An increase in student attendance is very likely: Assistant professor Sarah Ray, who leads classes in both English literature and geography at UAS, plans to have her students attend the series, drawing attention to its cross-disciplinary aspects.

Hayes said she hopes to continue the series on into the future, and isn’t sure where it might lead.

“The program is moving and evolving and who knows. I’ve actually been thinking a year ahead, trying to imagine what we might do next year to keep it fresh, to change it up, to include more and more people, so I’m open for ideas.”

Here’s a look at the full schedule:

Jan. 27: Art of Place as History: Steve Henrikson and Janice Criswell

Feb. 24: Art of Place as Future: presenter to be announced

March 23: Art of Place as Identity: Ed Kunz and Percy Kunz

April 27: Art of Place as Sustenance: Helen Watkins.

A dessert potluck will follow the first three events. and a potluck of traditional foods will follow the final presentation. Each event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Friday at the UAS Glacier View Room.

The series is made possible in part through funding from BP and Conoco Phillips.

For more information, visit www.uas.alaska.edu

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