Downtown Juneau is generally considered to be the center of the city’s art scene: the state and city museum are downtown, as are most of the art galleries and performance spaces, and a hefty majority of our public art, including most of our totem poles.
But while downtown may be the hub for viewing art – essentially the last stage of artistic creation — the University of Alaska Southeast campus out at Auke Lake is the hot-spot for learning to create it, a twin pole to downtown’s busy gallery scene.
Though the art department’s focus is primarily on degree-seeking students, art classes are open to everyone in the community, provided they meet any prerequisite requirements. Every semester UAS offers a wide range of art classes taught by some of Juneau’s best known artists, the majority of which are offered after 5 p.m. or on weekends to make the student base as broad as possible.
Pedar Dalthorp, one of three full time art professors in the department, said he believes a mix of community members and degree-seeking students provides a stronger base on which both kinds of students can build. He offers all his printmaking and sculpture classes after 5 p.m. for this reason.
“It seems to me that with the evening classes — at least for myself and my experiences — we seem to be able to get the best of both worlds,” Dalthorp said.
The evening schedule also makes it possible for degree-seeking students with jobs to take the classes they need.
Dalthorp said non-degree-seeking students often have real life experience and varied backgrounds that can be invaluable resources for the other students and the overall energy of the class.
“Currently, we’ve got some folks that are unconventional students that have a wealth of information that I wouldn’t be able to relay to students without them being there. I think it’s a good thing.”
Jeremy Kane, also a full time art professor, agrees.
“As much as we can have a plethora of other different sorts of people in there it becomes fun for everybody, a dynamic environment,” Kane said.
“When I went to school in Fairbanks, that’s how it was. A lot of the people I learned from were community members, people besides my professors. I thought it was great having people who were older than me in my classes and I learned all kinds of things from them.”
Kane said he frequently has retirees in his ceramics classes, a demographic he welcomes.
“I’ve got quite a few people that are right around 60 that are in (ceramics class),” Kane said. “They are awesome — they’re getting better at their craft and they’re real serious about it because they have the time. They’re going back to the role of a traditional student.”
Time is key to any serious study of art, Kane added.
“In order to get an art education, I’m just a firm believer in the fact that you can’t just do it every once in a while. You have to get into this rhythm of making things.”
The art department recently hosted an open house, which Kane said was organized in part to give community members a chance to check out the facilities and learn more about the art program, as well as to attract new students who can help establish a core group of artists who motivate and energize each other.
“We just wanted to show off the facility and let people know that they can get involved,” Kane said. “Even high school students can be involved with the university in a town like this. People should even take more advantage of it, I think, than they do.”
Though ineligible to enroll in a degree program, high school students can take advanced classes that help them fulfill their graduation requirements. They must first meet with advisors at both schools, and receive approval before registering.
Community members need not be enrolled in a degree-seeking program as a student to take an art class, they just need to register and pay the fees. Registration is currently under way for spring semester classes; the first day of classes is Jan. 14, but classes fill up fast as most are kept small, with a cap at 12 students.
According to Diane Meador, manager of institutional effectiveness at UAS, an average of 181 students have enrolled each academic year in UAS art courses that are offered outside regular office hours over the past five fall semesters. Of these, about 59 percent are seeking UAS degrees, 52 percent are part-time students, and 65 percent are returning and continuing students.
Meador also said the average age of the students in these after-hours classes over the last five years is 32.
The university has offered a bachelors of arts in art for the past five years, and the department continues to expand as funds and space allow. Kane said he’s always looking for ways to improve opportunities for students, through developments such as the recently established undergraduate research grant awarded to two art students last year. Their projects not only helped advance their own work, but also provide a lasting benefit for other students at the school and the community at large.
“One of them built a kiln that’s vegetable fired .... and the other one built a cup library in the hallway which consists of about 75 or 80 cups made by ceramic artists all over the country,” Kane said.
Dalthorp said the art department frequently discusses other ways to strengthen community ties. In addition to the open house, the UAS art department organizes gallery shows downtown twice a year -- in April at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery and in December at the Baranof Hotel.
One new idea the art team is tossing around is to organize a region-wide art competition that taps those working both within and outside the arts realm, particularly those who are skilled in a trade but don’t typically use those skills to create art.
“Essentially the idea would be to have people to use materials they are familiar with and address a topic,” Dalthorp said.
“I like that idea. I like the idea of giving people excuses to make things that they may not ordinarily do, or address things they may not ordinarily address. I think that could appeal to people, both professional artists and lay people.”
In addition to stimulating local creativity, the competition would help get the word out about what’s going on in the art department, he said.
“For as small of a school as we have, it can be pretty easy to get lost down the hill, in the basement,” he said in reference to the art deparment’s out-of-the-way location on campus. "Maybe even more so now that the road has been rerouted, now we’re kind of at the back of the campus. It’s frequently kind of amazing to me to see how little people know about what’s going on.”
Undergraduate degree programs at UAS include a bachelor of arts in art, and minors in art and Northwest Coast art. UAS also offers an occupational endorsement in Northwest Coast art, with an emphasis in basketry, carving or weaving.
In addition to a staff of three full-time faculty members — Kane, Dalthorp and Anne Wedler — UAS art classes are led by an impressive team of adjunct instructors. The list includes well-known Alaska Native weavers Delores Churchill, Kay Parker and Janice Criswell; carvers Ray Watkins and Duane Bosch; Alaska State Museum curator and artist Steve Henrikson; painter David Woodie; scientific illustrator Kathy Hocker; and photographers David Gelotte and Ben Huff.
Art class offerings, which vary from semester to semester, include instruction in drawing, painting, ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, photography, fiber arts and weaving, graphic design, art appreciation and history, and Northewest Coast art and design, including basketry, carving, weaving and tool making
Here is a look at the 27 classes offered this semester at UAS. Keep in mind that some classes may have prerequisite requirements or other restrictions, and that some may be full.
Those with an asterix are offered after 5 p.m. or on the weekend.
Beginning Drawing (ART 105), taught by David Woodie and Anne Wedler *
Art Appreciation (ART 160), taught by Benjamin Huff
Beginning Ceramics (ART 201). Taught by Jeremy Kane
Intermediate Drawing (ART 205), taught by David Woodie *
Beginning Printmaking (ART 209), taught by Pedar Dalthorp *
Beginning Sculpture (ART 211), taught by Pedar Dalthorp *
Beginning Painting (Oil or Acrylic) (ART 213), taught by Anne Wedler
Digital Camera Photography (ART 222), taught by David Gelotte *
Northwest Coast Native Art History and Culture (ART 263) , taught by Steve Henrikson *
Beginning Northwest Coast Carving (ART 285), taught by Duane Bosch *
Digital photographic printing. (ART 293), taught by Ben Huff. *
Intermediate Ceramics (ART 301). taught by Jeremy Kane.
Advanced Drawing (ART 305), taught by David Woodie *
Intermediate Printmaking (ART 309), taught by Pedar Dalthorp *
Intermediate Sculpture (ART 311), taught by Pedar Dalthrop *
Intermediate Painting (ART 313), taught by Anne Wedler
History of Modern Art (ART 363), taught by Anne Wedler
Intermediate Northwest Coast Carving (ART 385), taught by Duane Bosch *
Northwest Coast Native Art History and Culture (ART 393), taught by Steve Henrikson*
Intermediate digital photography (ART 393), taught by David Gelotte
Advanced Ceramics (ART 401), taught by Jeremy Kane *
Senior Drawing (ART 405), taught by David Woodie *
Advanced Printmaking (ART 409), taught by Pedar Dalthorp *
Advanced Sculpture (ART 411), taught by Pedar Dalthrop *
Advanced Painting (ART 413), taught by Anne Wedler
Advanced Northwest Coast Carving (ART 485), taught by Duane Bosch *
For more information, visit www.uas.alaska.edu.