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Bright moments of 2013

Posted: December 26, 2013 - 1:00am
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Grace Kelly sings to a full house during her quintet's performance at The Lucky Lady in May 2013 as part of the Juneau Jazz & Classics music festival.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Grace Kelly sings to a full house during her quintet's performance at The Lucky Lady in May 2013 as part of the Juneau Jazz & Classics music festival.

This year, we honored the history of our arts community with the observance of several major milestones: the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and KTOO both turned 40, and the Juneau Symphony celebrated 50, marking the occasion with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth in April.

This was also the year we dug into two major projects for the future: the new State Library Archives and Museum building, set to open in 2016, and the Walter Soboleff Center, scheduled for completion late next year. Every time I walk past one of these construction sites, and see those buildings taking shape, I am excited to think about all the artistic energy those spaces will hold, radiating out across the region, the state, even the country.

In addition to these big events, the end of the year is also a great time to take stock of all the small-scale events that feed our arts community on a daily basis. For the past few years, the Empire’s Arts desk has asked a handful of locals to come up with a list of five things that have stood out for them in the arts over the past year. Here’s what they came up with this year, offered, as always, in a spirit of celebration for all of the creative minds that make Juneau such a vibrant place to live.

 

ERIC CALDWELL, Producer, director and performer with Morally Improv-erished, Inc.

Juneau has a ridiculous amount of creativity flowing through it, both through its own artists and from the guests that we invite to join us for a few days. It’s certainly not easy to narrow down to five highlights.

• “Enlightenment on E Floor North”: Roblin Davis and Strange Attractor Theater Company never fail to fascinate. With this piece, the ensemble managed to create a very realistic world where the miniscule and mundane became farcically exaggerated and the audience kept on their toes wondering what’s going to happen next.

• “Safety Last”: I have to admit, I had never seen Richard Dowling perform before, despite his many visits to Juneau, but I love The Gold Town’s Not So Silent Film series. The chance to watch a Harold Lloyd classic performed by a master pianist who loves ragtime was too good to pass up. Needless to say, Dowling did not disappoint.

• Culinary arts: It was a great year for creative foodstuffs. Of particular note are the seasonally wildcrafted offerings from The Rookery Cafe, the only place you will ever order deep fried devil’s club buds, and Coppa, where Marc Wheeler has taken ice cream and sorbet into the mad scientist realm.

• Sketch: Amongst our visual artists, I look forward to M.K. MacNaughton’s shows wherever they occur — whether around town or out of her studio. Her paintings give off such a wonderful sense of place and make me feel at ease whenever I’m around them.

• Alaska State Improv Festival: When we did our first improv show ten years ago, it was unthinkable that we’d invite dozens of great improvisors from across the continent to come up and perform, yet that’s exactly what happened. And to feature Andy Eninger, a Second City legend, in the festival’s first year? Needless to say, I can hardly wait for April 24 to roll around so we can start AS IF all over again. (This time, featuring Amber Nash from the hit TV show Archer!)

 

JEFF BROWN, Program Director KTOO/KRNN

• The Alaska Folk Festival, always a standout week!

• Juneau Jazz & Classics, a constant stream of pleasant surprises!

• Who’s Your Diva?, this town is full of talent!

• Wearable Art, filled my face with smiles!

• Coming Out, a great evening of stories!

 

PATRICK RACE, artist and filmmaker

George Kuhar’s birthday performance last January at the Rookery was unforgettable. Gospel Music for an Aquarian Age.

• Liz Snyder and the Wool Pullers played at Samovars on a cold winter night. The crowd was so small that the music spilled over the top.

• Kat Palmer created installation art which I accidentally discovered on a walk through the Treadwell ruins. A pair of plaster dancers suspended from the ceiling, slow waltzing in the wind.

A huge group, many of my favorite people, sang Boom-de-Yada together at Rene Walker’s memorial service. It was more beautiful and tear inducing than any hymn.

• Christy NaMee Eriksen’s words and visual art have been inspirational and thought provoking. She’s a community builder, she invites others in. I would not be surprised at all to see her named state writer laureate.

 

BOSTIN CHRISTOPHER, artistic associate at Perseverance Theatre

The first annual As If Improv Festival, which brought improv troupes from around the country to Juneau. 

Shakespeare at the Goldtown. Using technology to bring live theatrical productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company to Juneau. Bravo! 

Ryan Connaro: The show with his sister Sarah this spring (“Keep coming back because...”) and then his installation in the fall at the JACC (“this hour forward”). We are lucky to have an artist of Ryan’s caliber based here in Juneau and his work continues to challenge, inspire and push boundaries. 

• Out at the University: The Vagina Monologues in the spring and the reading by the drama club this fall of “The Mouth at the River of Bees.” Students doing brave and honest work with passion keeps me hopeful for all of humanity. 

“Before I die, I want to…” wall downtown. Simply awesome and amazing use of space and a bringing together of community. 

 

DAN HOPSON, guitarist

Classical Guitarist Robert Belenic: Thanks to Juneau Jazz & Classics, we were treated to some lively and expressive music from Robert and his clarinetist partner, Jose Franch-Ballester. A couple of lucky souls (myself included) also enjoyed Robert’s guitar workshop, which was as warmly entertaining as it was informative.

Kerry Howard: I’m consistently impressed by the high quality and creativity in the photos turned out by this Juneau photographer. Her presentation for Wildlife Wednesdays at UAS in February brightened up the heart of winter for me and many others and her regular contributions to the Juneau Empire always start my day off better when they appear.

Rick Trostel, Todd Hunt and Rosie Humphery: This talented trio put on an “Old Friends at Play” concert at Resurrection Lutheran Church in early July that was amusing for the Peter Schickele piece, admirable for the high level of musicianship throughout and heartwarming as a farewell concert for Rick, a much-loved music teacher and performer here for many years. It was a midsummer jewel.

Plein Rein: This month’s exhibit at the JACC by this highly productive group of visual artists is a delight to the senses with its gift of sun and sea from the south of France. Their stylistic variety makes every showing of theirs a must-see event for me and I’m rarely disappointed.

“Watercolor”: At the risk of sounding self-serving, I’d like to salute the hard work of three Juneau artists without whom I wouldn’t have been able to produce this second CD of my guitar music in 2013. Betsy Sims at Studio A put in many long hours recording and editing the music – I thank her for her infinite patience and good humor. Constance Baltuck’s handsome painting which graces the cover is just the kind of Juneau scene I was looking for. And a tip of the hat to graphic artist, Matt Knutson, for the package and disc designs. The project was partly funded by a grant from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. It’s a “bright moment” when you can find all of this support locally.

 

CHERYL SNYDER, assistant general manager for arts & culture, KTOO

KRNN Spotlight Series: Several great shows this last year with a number of Juneau’s great performers on stage. A fall highlight was Dynamic Duos with some really inspired performances by George and Bridget Kuhar, The Wool Pullers, Soft Old Day, and Ali Kane and Erin Hanson.

Alaska Folk Festival: Such an amazing event each year of music and community. We (KRNN) were really proud this year to stream the event so that all of the talented musicians could be not only heard, but seen around the world.

Mudrooms: A wonderful forum for great storytelling and getting to know each other better. Some of my favorite stories were from the show themed around “First Times.”

Juneau Jazz & Classics: How can you not love great weather combined with world-class performers? The Grace Kelly Quintet knocked our socks off both at the State Office Building atrium lunch-time concert and her evening show. Wow.

KXLL Fishfest: July 3 at the Twisted Fish. Astronomar killed it again this year. Such an amazing party, such a great performance.

 

HADASSAH NELSON, theater artist and Capital City Weekly staff member

• Theatre in the Rough’s production of “The Ladies of the Camellias”

• The JAHC’s Wearable Arts Extravaganza

• That last concert with Sammy Burrous at Rockwell

• The new “Much Ado About Nothing”

• “The K of D” performance at the Second Stage at Perseverance Theatre.

 

JIM FOWLER AND SUSI GREGG FOWLER, artist and writer

The Gospel Choir with the Rev. Bobby Lewis and Eustace Johnson, sponsored by JAHC in collaboration with the Juneau Black Awareness Committee, dazzled us —a spirited workshop (which one of us took part in) and joyful performances with amazing solos from a number of Juneau folks (Sherry Patterson —incredible!). Best of all, Rev. Bobby and Eustace will be back again in February 2014.

Dick Benedict’s Solo Exhibit at the State Museum was creative, quirky, fun, gorgeous. Wow.

Arlo Guthrie’s kick off for the Juneau Jazz and Classics series was brilliant. Despite the packed hall, the place hummed with a comfortable sense of being in a giant living room with an old friend sharing wonderful music and personal and family stories.

“La Traviata” presented by Juneau Lyric Opera with the Amalga Chamber Orchestra and the JLO Chorus was impressive, and Kathleen Wayne was thrilling as Violetta.

Perseverance Theatre’s STAR and JDU’s Fine Arts Camp again invited Juneau youth into the world of the arts. Our grandkids blossoming at FAC with dance, ukulele, formline drawing and painting, spoken-word poetry, knitting and more, and then later, our grandson getting to perform in Perseverance’s STAR program production of “King Lear” reminds us how grateful we are to those who make arts for kids happen year after year.

 

JACKIE MANNING, Curator of Exhibitions, Alaska State Museum

Theatre in the Rough’s “Equivocation, a play “based on (a lie about) a true story,” directed by Katie Jensen.

Ryan Conarro’s exploration of marriage in America with his installation, “this hour forward” at the JAHC was a beautiful exhibit aptly timed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to abolish Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which effectively legitimizes gay marriage in states where such unions are legal.

Dan Fruits’ exhibit, New Work at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Dan beautifully captures the atmosphere and magnitude of Juneau’s landscape.

Kay Parker’s Playing with Lightning, Ravenstail Weaving at the Alaska State Museum. The level of craftsmanship and the thousands of hours that went into the geometric style weavings displayed in Kay’s exhibit was absolutely breathtaking to see in person.

Alaska State Museum’s Youth Activities. Organized by Lisa Golisek, these workshops offered students the opportunity to work with artists from all over the state on projects ranging from sculpture to encaustic art to Ravenstail weaving.

 

CHRIS TAYLOR, artistic coordinator at the Canvas

• “Faces and Places,” new paintings by Marianne Manning. Marianne jumped off from her previous exhibit, which showcased her portrait skills, to include landscapes and stained glass in her exhibit at the Canvas. It was a pleasure to see the variety of mediums she creates in, and it was even more exciting to see the creativity that the exhibit sparked during the mosaic classes Marianne taught that month.

• Anchorage carver, Drew Michael. Drew Michael displayed 34 masks in his exhibit, “Life Expressions” at the Alaska State Museum. The masks, which combined traditional and modern materials, as well as subjects personal to the artist, were both inspiring and very well executed. In addition, the museum’s creative installment of the masks elevated the exhibit to a new level, making for a very memorable art experience.

• “Fish in the Water, Bird on the Tree, and Vase by the Wall,” curated by Brandon Howard. This exhibit showcased six Reach artists’ work at the Alaska State Museum: Andres Jones, Avery Skaggs, George Grey, Gina Frickey, Maryann James and Mike Godkin. The ceramic artwork selected and exhibit in the show were beautiful, imaginative, and well-crafted. The exhibit culminated in a youth activity where the artists worked with students to create a giant walrus out of clay named Winston. The response from, and engagement with the Juneau community was overwhelmingly positive, memorable, and most importantly fun!

• Jim Fowler’s “Original Children’s Book Illustrations” at the JAHC. Highlighted original works from 14 different books Jim has illustrated over the years. It was fantastic to see such an overview of Jim’s illustrative works.

• Jump Society Film Festival at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. The film festival features locally made short films that run the gamut of genres. As always, this year’s festival was very memorable and a great time.

 

KRISTIN GAROT, principal of Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School and Montessori Borealis

In no particular order...

• Kyle Pickett: His announcement that he’ll be leaving the symphony after this season makes me all that much more appreciative of his leadership in the Juneau Symphony — as a player and as an audience member. I’ve been lucky to play under Kyle’s direction since the fall of 2000 — and we’ve grown so much as a group in the last 13 years. I hope Juneau knows we’ve been lucky to have Kyle!

• “K of D”: Not just because I was involved (well, maybe a little), but Christina Apathy’s one-woman show in the spring of 2013 was really amazing. The Second Stage at Perseverance Theatre was transformed into this beautiful and haunting lakeside by Earnest Ekerson, and Christina did such thoughtful and careful work — it was a gift to be a part of the process.

• Auditions for “Spamalot”: Students from all three high schools tried out for the upcoming production of “Spamalot.” At one point in the fall audition process, which I was invited to participate in, I had this moment of realization about how amazing Barb Maier and Michaela Moore are to put this piece on together. Kids have been going back and forth between JDHS and TMHS for rehearsals — what other school-based activity has been this cooperative and welcoming to the other!

• “Samsara” at the Gold Town: There are a lot of Nickelodeon movies that I have seen in the past year, and “Samsara” was one that was sort of perfect in that moment. I didn’t really know anything about it when I walked in, but sat there for an hour and a half and was transfixed! It was thought-provoking and meditative all at once. I love that there’s still a place in Juneau that has such a variety of things to see and hear — silent movies with live music scores, movies, events — thank you Mark Ridgway and Colette Costa for keeping the Nickelodeon open!

• JAHC’s Artist-in-Residency workshops: I was feeling a bit overwhelmed in my new job when a request came in from the folks at the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council to make sure our teachers signed up an Artist-in-Residency series of workshops. I was going to skip it, but I went. And I spent two hours getting to know more about people I know and work with while practicing writing and drama. It was a reminder of how important it is to slow down and be present and try something new. And a reminder of how much I value the time and skill of the Juneau artists who spend time in Juneau’s K-12 classrooms through the Artists-in-Residency program.

 

MELISSA GRIFFITHS, Neighbors editor, Juneau Empire

In no particular order

• Wearable Art Organix: I participated as an artist this year and must say I love the hard work and the behind-the-scenes action as much as sitting in the audience, taking it all in. It’s always one of the hottest events of the year, and for good reason — it’s so full of creativity and energy.

• Visiting artists with Alaska Robotics Kate Beaton, Scott Campbell and Vera Brosgol, among others: I have long been a follower of Beaton’s web comics, which often take a humorous look at historical figures, though she also does delightful comics about her family in Nova Scotia. I hadn’t been familiar with Campbell’s work, but he was such a gregarious guy and his Great Showdowns are funny and cute. Vera Brosgol is an artist I discovered for her vintage fashion drawings, but I also bought and enjoyed her graphic novel “Anya’s Ghost,” which I dutifully trotted over to the Alaska Robotics shop like the fangirl I sometimes am, to get it signed.

• Sammy Burrous’ going away party at the Rockwell Ballroom: I’ve been a fan of Burrous’ blues guitar and singing since way back and it was great to catch Devil’s Club’s last guaranteed performance — luckily he’s been back for a visit, so I have seen him play more recently as well. Another bright spot that night was the performance by Annie Bartholomew, whose singing voice is much bigger and more mature than you’d guess having a conversation with her.

• All the drag: It was a good year for men dressing as women and women dressing as men. Femme Fatale, the annual fundraiser bash for the Southeast office of Alaskan Aids Assistance Association, features visiting queens from Anchorage who pack the house for their performances, but also the so-called amateur night, with local performers knocking the stockings off the crowd. Devyn Reece managed to make drag a thing beyond that once-a-year event, with drag bingo during the late summer and a holiday themed fundraiser most recently. I hope we see much more in the year to come.

• Modeling for artists: I love that this community is so packed full of artists and that every month we have art show openings to attend during the First Friday gallery walks. This year I had the honor of modeling for a couple local artists I admire. You might only see part of my face in MK McNaughton’s portrait project, to be shown in spring of 2014, but you’ll know me by the glitzy glasses frames. I also modeled for artist and professor Anne Wedler, who has shown her oil paintings across the country, most recently at the December Gallery Walk and earlier this year at a show at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va.

 

AMY FLETCHER, arts editor, Juneau Empire

• Ken Burns Skype interview at the Gold Town Nickelodon in February. In addition to being a fascinating face-to-face discussion with one of the nation’s top documentary filmmakers, this interview, led by Pat Race and organized by Collette Costa, was remarkable just for the fact that it happened. Members of the small audience were able to ask direct questions of Burns in a relaxed and intimate setting, and to hear his views on the craft of filmmaking, his motivations for pursuing different projects, and the themes of racism as explored in his film, “The Central Park Five.” Over the past couple of years, Costa has been setting up Skype interviews with directors whenever she can — yet another way she is extending the boundaries of this small art-house theater and keeping our city connected despite the limitations of geography.

• Drew Michael’s exhibit at the Alaska State Museum in February. Anchorage artist Drew Michael’s exhibit of masks, “Life Expressions,” was one of my favorite gallery shows this year. His art highlights the idea of dichotomies – tradition and innovation, Native and non-Native — and combines a familiar artform with an execution that is completely unexpected. The way his pieces were hung in the upstairs gallery really added to the energy of the show, with a group of particularly powerful pieces arrayed in a circle in the middle of the room, at eye level, with lots of space around them. Visually and conceptually stunning.

• Work by the Conarro siblings. I loved Ryan and Sarah Conarro’s joint performance piece in March, “Keep coming back because...,” which combined spoken word, song, movement and projected imagery in an original work based on their shared history. In defying classification it was a reminder to me of how much room there is in our community for work that pushes past traditional labels — play, concert, art exhibit. Later in the year, both Conarros brought individual art installations to local galleries. In Ryan’s show, “this hour forward” at the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, he played with ideas of identity, overlaying life-size projections of himself with his real-life presence. Sarah’s show, “Nice Looking,” currently on view at the Rookery, is an evolving art installation that will culminate in a performance piece at the end of January, featuring New York artist Julian Bozeman.

• Woosh Kinaadeiyí’ Grand Slam in October. The energy in the room at the Woosh Kinaadeiyí’ poetry slams, founded by Christy NaMee Eriksen and Nahaan in 2010, never fails to impress me. It’s overwhelmingly positive, fed by a willingness on the part of the poets to reveal themselves in surprisingly honest ways, and on the part of the audience to listen with their full attention, with an acknowledgment that this honesty is a gift. At this year’s Grand Slam, the third annual, a highlight for me was a poem by co-host Dee Jay DeRego -- amazing.

• Sharing Our Knowledge: 2013 Clan Conference in November. The three-day clan conference  -- organized by a committee that included Peter Metcalfe, Kathy Ruddy and Gerry Hope -- was made up of a huge array of lectures, presentations and discussions – far too many things for one person to take in. Every session I attended – from an art history session on Amos Wallace presented by Zachary Jones (standing in for Aldona Jonaitis), to a snapshot of “Our Way of Life” by Alan Zuboff of Angoon, to a round of Tlingit bingo led by Hans Chester -- enriched my understanding of Tlingit culture – through art, history, language -- and by extension, the place I’ve called home for more than two decades. I was grateful for the experience.

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