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A portrait of our community: Local artist creates new map for tourists

Posted: August 20, 2014 - 11:02pm
  Courtesy of Pat Race
Courtesy of Pat Race

Tourists hoping for insiders’ tips on where to go and what to see in downtown Juneau have had a creative new resource to draw on this summer: a free city map and guide created by local artist and business owner Pat Race.

The black and white map, available since June at the Alaska Robotics Gallery on Front Street, features a selection of downtown shops, restaurants and other items of interest hand-picked by Race, a lifetime Juneau resident.

“It’s my take on Juneau -- it’s very personal,” Race said of his map. “I tried to highlight a lot of the things I enjoy or want people who are visiting to see. And on the back side there’s a guide I wrote about different aspects of downtown.”

Race created the map on his own, without any funding from the Downtown Business Association or from the businesses he highlights in his graphic and in the accompanying text. He said he views the project partly as an advertising expense – the gallery he co-owns, Alaska Robotics, is prominently featured in the center of the map – and as a way to help promote locally-owned business and our community as a whole.

“I wanted it to be a balance of useful information, things that are fun, and then also I want people to find things in Juneau that they might not find,” Race said. “I want to make sure people go to Shoefly and the Imagination Station and the Rookery, and that they see all these cool businesses that people are really putting their hearts into. I think this is the texture of our community, this is the front door of Juneau. I want Juneau to be a place people can appreciate, and part of that is making sure that they find all the fun little secret stuff.”

Less visible locations highlighted on Race’s map include Aunt Claudia’s Doll Museum, above Hearthside Books, and Dee Longenbaugh’s Observatory Books and Maps, on Third Street.

Because no one paid for inclusion or placement, Race was able to design the map the way he wanted, and include non-commercial elements he thought would be helpful to visitors, such as where to find nearby hiking trails. As a way to recoup some of the printing costs, he is selling unfolded prints of the map for $10 and larger version on nicer paper for $50.

“I think there’s a difference between a map where people have to pay to be on it and a map where you’re showing where everything is,” Race said. “I wanted to do something that was really a portrait of the community. It’s a little bit commercial, because it has all these businesses on it, of course, but it also shows people where the restrooms are, where the mailboxes are in town, where to find ice cream comes. That’s what people want to know.”

Artistically, the map builds on two major influences, Race said. The first is an old map Race saw on a wall in Key West while vacationing with his girlfriend, Alaskan musician Marian Call. That map – “A New and Most Exact Description of America or The Fourth Part of the World” — was created in 1562 by Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez and Flemish artist Hieronymus Cock, and is notable for its unusual details, such as finely-drawn sea monsters and sea-gods rising from the middle of the ocean. Aspects of the antique map that can be seen in Race’s Juneau map include the detailed texture of the waves, the intricate border that surrounds the central image, and the title (Race’s map is officially called “The Alaska Robotics Map: A New and Most Exact Description of Juneau, Alaska”).

The other influence Race cites is a 1984 Fiesta Promotions map of downtown Juneau.

“It came out when I was 7 years old, Race said. “My grandma had a copy of it in her house. She helped out at the (visitors’ information) kiosk when it was up here in Marine Park and I’d go down there and help her after school sometimes, or in the summer, and help her distribute things. .... I’ve always been pretty impressed by how much they were able to fit into that map.”

Like the Fiesta map, Race managed to fit a lot of information into a tiny space. His target area is just a few blocks of central downtown, extending from the Juneau Public Library up to Third Street, and from Main Street over to Gold Street. The tourist zone is indicated by giant arrow pointing south down Franklin Street; however, locally owned businesses in that part of town, such as Tracy’s Crab Shack, are mentioned in the guide on the map’s reverse side.

Race is considering expanding the map in future versions and already has ideas about things to add for the next version, such as where visitors can find Wi-Fi access.

Though created primarily for tourists, Race’s map has also caught on among the locals, who have been purchasing the map as a piece of art to hang in their homes. He initially printed 500 maps, but burned through his supply in just a few days. The second printing was 5,000, and that stack is currently dwindling.

As downtown continues to change and grow, Race hopes the map will help contribute to the positive energy he feels lucky to be a part of as a downtown Juneau business owner.

“It’s exciting and I’m trying to help contribute to that,” Race said. “There’s Kindred Post and Trickster and the Soboleff building. Heritage Coffee is moving in across the street (on Seward) ... There’s a lot of new construction going on. The Front Street area is pretty cool right now. It’s an exciting time to be downtown.”

It’s also an exciting time for Race’s gallery, which was recently named one of “Alaska’s 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries and Museums” by The Culture Trip (http://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/alaska/articles/alaska-s-10-...). In naming the gallery, writer Patrick Norrie commented:

“Alaska Robotics is simultaneously a comic bookshop and an art gallery. The store in Juneau demonstrates that comic books are a manifestation of artistic expression. For some mistakenly believe that graphic novels are solely confined to the genre of superhero fiction. Yet Alaska Robotics are keen to broaden the appeal of graphic novels by illustrating its richness as a form of visual art. The gallery itself is still in its infancy - just two years old - yet it certainly looks set to have a bright future. It features illustrations by Pat Race, the owner of Alaska Robotics, as well as other local and national artists. The team are perpetually in motion, creating illustrations, graphic novels, cards, shirts, short films as well as organising workshops.

Annie Kaills, across the street, was also on the list.

To find out more about Alaska Robotics and Race’s map, visit the gallery at 220 Front St. or visit http://alaskarobotics.com/.

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