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Stevens' portrait prepared for public viewing

New painting to be unveiled tonight at State Museum before moving to Capitol

Posted: February 3, 2012 - 2:31am

At the Alaska State Museum tonight, the public will get a sneak peak at the new Ted Stevens portrait soon to hang in the state Capitol.

The work commissioned from painter Dean Larson will be seen publicly for the first time tonight at the museum and the public is invited to the 5 p.m. event.

It will eventually hang on the Capitol’s second floor among those of other distinguished Alaskans.

“We’re thrilled, we’re really happy that we have a very high quality piece of artwork to remember the senator in a very significant way, a very permanent way, in the state Capitol,” said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, whose office coordinated the project.

The idea to honor Stevens in the Capitol where he once served as a legislator originated with legislative aide John Manly, who brought in legislators such as Muñoz and Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, to get the job done.

“I was ecstatic, and I was glad to be part of it,” said Menard, who chairs the Legislative Council, which runs the Capitol building and day-to-day operations of the Legislature.

The portrait is the work of Larson, not only an accomplished artist who had studied under legendary Alaska artist Fred Machetanz, but who had also served as an intern for Stevens in Washington, D.C.

Machetanz painted the portrait of Ernest Gruening, a former governor and senator, already on display at the Capitol.

“It was the choice of Ted Stevens’ wife, Catherine, and Lily, his daughter, to go with Dean,” said Menard.

Menard said Larson’s background with Stevens helped him capture the likeness of Stevens. Larson is the son of the late Rep. Ron Larson of Palmer.

“We reached out to Dean and he was willing to do the portrait and was very excited about it,” Muñoz said.

“In my view Alaska has some phenomenal painters, but not every artist can be a portrait artist,” Menard said.

Muñoz said she was happy the portrait would hang in the halls where Stevens once served with her father, former Juneau legislator Elton Engstrom Jr., before going to Washington.

“He was a remarkable man and he was a remarkable senator,” Muñoz said.

Menard said Stevens’ decades of service to Alaska, including his fight for statehood, service in the Legislature in the 1960s, and then 40 years in the U.S. Senate are being honored.

It was in that Senate service he became known as “Uncle Ted” to Alaskans and his passion, drive and legislative skill will be long remembered, she said.

“He was a statesman who could get it done, could get the work done,” Menard said.

“If he thought it was good for Alaskans, it didn’t matter if it was rural or urban, he went at it full force,” she said.

The unveiling will also include a short video of Stevens, and several guests, Muñoz said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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