Ketchikan students' art subject of Tongass tribute

Four year olds Isabel Morris and Gabriel Garcia looks at a wall of tree paintings by 1st and 2nd graders in Tongass School of Arts and Sciences art class taught by Loren McCue in Jan. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson)

KETCHIKAN — The Tongass Historical Museum and the U.S. Forest Service have joined forces to bring a new exhibit to Ketchikan, “A Forest of Words: Youth Voices Celebrate the Tongass National Forest,” a collection of art created by Southeast Alaska school children as a way to honor the forest in which they live.


Most of the artwork was made by Ketchikan elementary school students from the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, Ketchikan Charter School and Fawn Mountain Elementary School, said Museum Director Michael Naab. Other student pieces were created by children living in Naukati, Craig, Thorne Bay, Petersburg, Wrangell and Yakutat.

Naab said the project was coordinated by Faith Duncan of the Forest Service in conjunction with the International Year of the Forest in 2011.

“She contacted teachers throughout the region and asked if they might participate and ask their students how the Tongass affects them ... and to interpret that either graphically or verbally, or in written form,” Naab said. “The result is this show.”

He said the exhibit features about 400 pieces by students in kindergarten through eighth grade, arranged by grade level and school.

“That’s a lot,” Naab said, adding that he was concerned when pieces started coming in about how the exhibit would turn out.

Thanks to the “wonderful people” who work at the museum, he said, “It’s a fun show. It’s really colorful and it’s terrific.”

The exhibit also includes pieces by two adult artists, he said.

“Rich Stage, a metal artist ... has a simply fantastic sculpture of a pair of small cedar trees that are in the middle of the gallery,” he said, and California artist Andie Thrams has three paintings and a folding book in the show.

Thrams worked as an artist-in-residence with some of the Petersburg students who submitted work for the exhibit, Naab said.

The show features two-dimensional art, such as drawings and paintings, video pieces, a PowerPoint presentation and written work, such as poems.

“A Forest of Words” opened the evening of Jan. 20, which coincided with a heavy snowfall.

“It was certainly not one of our best attended events,” Naab said. “But ... there was activity throughout the evening and lots of good food.”

The exhibit will remain on display through Feb. 25, and the museum has a family “funday” planned for 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 18 at the gallery.

Participants can explore different types of trees, animal tracks and hides; create tree cookie ornaments; and learn about traditional Northwest Coast crafts created with natural forest materials, according to the museum.


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