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Ketchikan artist explores new medium for SLAM

Posted: March 27, 2014 - 12:02am
In this photo from July 11, 2012, local artist Evon Zerbetz checks placements for artwork and iPad holders she created with Terry Pyles for kiosks they made for Berth 2 and Berth 3 Visitor Bureau buildings in Ketchikan, Alaska. (AP Photo/Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson)  Hall Anderson
Hall Anderson
In this photo from July 11, 2012, local artist Evon Zerbetz checks placements for artwork and iPad holders she created with Terry Pyles for kiosks they made for Berth 2 and Berth 3 Visitor Bureau buildings in Ketchikan, Alaska. (AP Photo/Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson)

KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz is one of three people selected to create art for the new State Library Archive Museum under construction in Juneau.

Zerbetz, who primarily works in linocut printmaking, will recreate her designs on a 63-foot expanse of glass panels using hand painting, etching and colored glass to achieve vibrant hues.

Walter Gordinier of Portland, Ore., and Martin Shelton of Bellingham, Wash., are the other two artists selected to create artwork for the new state library.

Zerbetz created her original proposal with the impression the panels would be made of wood. When she was selected to produce a full proposal for the project, she learned the panels were glass and she had only six weeks to put the proposal together.

“I had a lot to learn, and it was just fascinating,” Zerbetz said. “That’s one of the really wonderful things about the public art Percent for Art Program, is that it does push the artist to think in new directions.”

Zerbetz said the integration of art into the building is happening on the “ground level” while the building is still in the design phase.

“It’s really forward thinking to bring in the art plans at this time, because (the architects) have changed quite a bit to incorporate the art,” Zerbetz said. “So they can actually build the art right into the building.”

Zerbetz said many projects mean incorporating art into already-constructed buildings, where art is added as an adornment. Artists go into the buildings to see where their art will fit in, not how the building will fit their art, she said.

“This committee is just passionate, and they are really dedicated to integrating the art into the building,” Zerbetz said.

Zerbetz’s piece is titled “We are written between the layers of the earth,” and will feature three human “mark makers” who carry instruments that leave marks on the water, air and land.

“There’s this element of how not only we humans make our mark on Alaska, but how Alaska makes its mark on us,” Zerbetz said. “Layers of people and creatures have etched their stories in the earth.”

Zerbetz said the size of the project is overwhelming only when she measures out the space.

“When I look at a building that’s 40 feet and think my work will be one and a half times this building, that’s the only time,” she said with a laugh. “I constantly think about the project.”

Zerbetz said she taught classes last week in Sitka, and attended an artist school residency prior to that in Anchorage. She will work on the state project full-time starting in April and continue through the summer.

“It’s a constant process,” Zerbetz said. “I’ve taken the conceptual sketch through three drafts, and each time is gets richer. I think with something that big, it’s nice to have this much time to let it sit and stew because ideas improve with time.”

“We as a committee feel that the artwork will not only enhance and work with this remarkable facility, but will have a significant, positive impact on the look and feel of the entire downtown Juneau area,” said selection committee member and University of Alaska Professor of Art Emeritus Kes Woodward. “This building and its complementary artwork are something the people of Juneau and Alaskans will be proud to call their own.”

Alaska’s Percent for Art Program was created in 1975, and is overseen by the Alaska State Council on the Arts. The Alaska legislature approved a statute that requires spending 1 percent of the construction cost for public buildings to acquire and permanently install artwork.

The SLAM building is expected to open April 2016. The completed building will have 118,000 square feet, which will double the former museum’s exhibition area and triple its collection storage area. Construction is expected to cost approximately $138 million.

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