Art of Place series kicks off today at UAS

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011

The University of Alaska Southeast has announced a new lecture series, Art of Place, designed to give community members a chance to connect with renowned Alaska Native artists in an informal setting.

DAVID SHEAKLEY / Juneau Empire File
DAVID SHEAKLEY / Juneau Empire File

The first lecture will feature basketry with Della Cheney, recent recipient of a Mayor’s Award for the Arts, and will run from 10 a.m.-noon today in the Glacier View Room on the UAS Auke Lake campus. A dessert potluck will follow.

Organizer Ernestine Hayes, assistant professor of English at UAS, said the idea for the series came out of a conversation she had with provost Rick Caulfield. The two had discussed the possibility of establishing an elder-in-residency program similar to one offered at UAF.

“Out of that conversation it occurred to me … that maybe a visiting artist just for a day would serve a similar purpose.”

The speakers Hayes selected aren’t all elders, but they are all prominent local artists and community leaders.

Hayes said lectures are often the best way to communicate with large groups but that with this series, based on local art and artists, creating less of a divide between speaker and audience is ideal. She was inspired to try something informal after attending a hastily put-together reception for visiting author Susan Power last year. Power, a well-known Sioux writer, stopped in Juneau after completing an artist-in resident program in Sitka, and UAS quickly organized a reading and a reception for her. The result was pleasantly relaxed, Hayes said.

“We sort of had an open house -- people came in and had some snacks and stood around with Susan while she had conversations with them,” she said.

“It was really informal and it was such a success and that’s what we’re hoping to model our series after.”

Audience members are welcome to bring their lunch, or to buy food at the cafeteria. The last talk in the series will be on gathering and preserving local food with Helen Watkins, and will feature a full potluck.

“I’m hoping for herring eggs and dried fish, yummy stuff.”

Hayes said she hopes to make the Art of Place series an annual event.

Here’s a look at Hayes’ listings for the spring schedule:

Feb. 10: Basketry featuring Della Cheney

Basketry has long been recognized as a truly expressive personal and cultural art. Rooted to place in the most literal sense, basketry continues to exemplify the marriage of function and art.

Feb. 24: Weaving featuring Clarissa Rizal

Textiles signal many messages, including the status, kinship, and wealth of the wearer. After years in which its survival was in peril, the art of weaving Ravenstail and Chilkat robes is once again strong and once again communicating important social messages.

March 17: Silver carving featuring Ed Kunz

Carving copper jewelry enjoys a longer tradition than silver in the history of Lingit Aani, and both arts exemplify the social purpose of jewelry.

March 24: Wood carving featuring Doug Chilton

Complex and of unparalleled beauty, emblems carved upon bowls, poles, and posts fulfill a function beyond decoration, and express cultural sophistication in its truest sense.

April 7: Beading and blankets featuring Florence Sheakley

The arts of beadwork and button blankets exemplify the dynamic nature of art and how art is shaped by place, culture, and community.

April 21: Gathering and preserving food, featuring Helen Watkins

Food is the essential human need most directly related to place. Fittingly, the series features the sharing of food in the contemporary tradition of potluck and ends with an examination and demonstration of the art of gathering and preserving foods specific to our unique place: Lingit Aani – the rich, abundant temperate rainforest.

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