Mobile glass-blowing studio comes to capital city for Museum Day

State flag exhibit opens at city museum

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2004

In 2001 and 2002, Pilchuck Glass School art director Pike Powers worked with a group of wood carvers in Haines to create a wood and glass totem pole for the northwest Washington state school's 30th anniversary.

The experience inspired her and her husband to build a mobile glass studio, capable of melting 125 pounds of glass at 2,200 degrees, in their Camano Island, Wash., yard.

Nestled inconspicuously in a small rig about two-thirds the size of a one-horse trailer, "Hot Ice," as the studio is called, is currently resting in the parking lot of the Alaska State Museum. Powers, technical assistant Kelly Soderberg and experienced carvers Vanessa Pazar and John Hagen are heating the furnace in anticipation of a five-hour demonstration in glass-blowing and hot-glass casting, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Alaska State Museum.

The show will accompany the opening of "Fusing Traditions: Transformations in Glass by Native American Artists," a new summer exhibit featuring the works of 18 Native artists.

The state museum, Juneau-Douglas City Museum and Last Chance Mining Museum will all be open for free from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday as part of Juneau Museum Day. The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church will open at noon. There will be free shuttle bus service between the four museums every 15 minutes and special events at each location.

The state museum's itinerary includes a picnic from noon to 2 p.m. in the plaza on Whittier Street. The mobile glass show will include tricks, performances and demonstrations of the plastic and elastic nature of the medium. A half-inch marble piece of glass, when heated and stretched to produce fiber-optic lines, can produce a mile of glass fiber, Powers said.

"Everyone was so enthused after the totem pole went up; it left this big atmosphere of inspiration and excitement," Powers said. "The carvers were very happy to work with glass, and 'Fusing Traditions' was coordinated to celebrate the artists who had started to work on glass."

"In a portable situation like this, we can bring glass up here and share ideas with them and see how it works," she said. "Seeing the work in 'Fusing Traditions,' it's evident that glass has a really nice connection to the wood, and the figurative aspects of wood are not too difficult to translate into glass."

For carvers such as Hagen, who has worked with wood since 1962, or Pazar, the transition into glass has been consuming.

"I'm noticing that from the little bit of glass blowing that I've done, I'm looking at wood in a totally different aspect," Pazar said. "They're two totally different entities, but the steps you take in order to create the art are extremely similar. I went straight from not ever seeing it to loving it."

• Juneau-Douglas City Museum: The City Museum, Fourth and Main streets, will open its summer exhibit, "Eight Stars of Gold: The Story of Alaska's Flag," from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Museum Day.

The exhibit tells the story of the Big Dipper design of Chignik-born Benny Benson, who won the 1927 contest while he was a seventh-grader and living in a children's shelter in Unalaska. It includes the original artwork from 35 other schoolchildren who entered, including Natalia Kashevaroff and George Danner of Juneau, Walter Savikko of Douglas, and at least 11 other kids from Southeast.

"Eight Stars" was curated by India Spartz. It premiered at the Alaska State Museum in January 2002 before touring around the state.

Territorial Governor George A. Parks proposed the state flag design contest in 1926 after visiting the Post Office building in Washington, D.C., and noticing that Alaska was not represented in the flag rotunda. The contest was open to all territorial schoolchildren in grades 7-12. Approximately 142 designs - on cardboard, plain paper or drawing paper measuring 8 1/2 by 11 inches - were forwarded to Juneau for final judging.

KTOO-FM music director Jeff Brown has collected 11 versions of the Alaska Flag song. They will be playing during the show's opening reception. Marie Darlin will talk about the Juneau-Douglas entries at noon and 2 p.m. At noon and 3 p.m., guests are invited to create their own flag and get their face painted with Alaska's flag design. All 50 state flags, courtesy of Michael Orelove, will be hanging through the museum. Cake and punch will be served.

For more information, call the City Museum at 586-3572.

• Last Chance Mining Museum: The mining museum will celebrate its 10th anniversary, beginning at 11:30 a.m. with the Alaska Youth Choir's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Throughout the day, mining historians, enthusiasts and Juneau pioneers will answer questions and lead tours.

The museum is at 1001 Basin Road, over the bridge and near the Perseverance Trailhead. Call 586-5338 for more information.

• St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church: The church, near the corner of Fifth and Gold streets, will be hosting oral presentations every 30 minutes. The tours begin at noon, after regular services.

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