The Canvas grand opening

Renovation includes new pottery studio, art gallery, kitchen

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Canvas community art studio, located at 223 Seward St. downtown, will host its Grand Opening with an art celebration and tour of its recently renovated studio on Sunday.

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Courtesy Of Mk Macnaughton
Courtesy Of Mk Macnaughton

"(We) wanted to invite the entire community - both to offer an opportunity to engage in a creative art space and to educate and interact with people with disabilities in a new way," Annie Geselle, The Canvas director, said.

In January 2006, The Canvas decided to renovate its space in order to offer a better gallery, studio, pottery shop and café for clients of REACH, an organization formed in 1977 to promote the independence and well-being of persons with disabilities in the community of their choice.

According to Geselle, The Canvas renovation occurred in two phases.

"The first phase, funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, began in January 2007 to create an ADA accessible bathroom and add a wall to define the gallery space," Geselle said.

Phase two began in January 2008, with grants from The Rasmunson Foundation and M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, with help from North Pacific Erectors and NorthWind Architects.

"We were able to upgrade the facility and buy equipment to accommodate the pottery studio and kitchen," she said. "We also have a new sink in the large studio, which we are very excited about! No more carrying paint brushes to the back room to wash up!"

One of the most exciting new features, according to Geselle, is a fully functioning pottery shop, which includes five electric wheels, one of which accommodates a wheelchair; a kiln and other necessary equipment, such as a slab roller, wedging table, pug mill and extruders.

The gallery also was remodeled, complete with new lighting and a reception area. And Pie in the Sky, which offers chocolate drinks, espresso, pie and other treats weekdays and during First Fridays, now has a comfy home at The Canvas, with its renovated kitchen.

At the opening

At the opening, there will be several artists on hand to demonstrate a variety of art mediums, Geselle said. Throughout the afternoon, several potters - Niall Johnson, Gina Fricky, Thomas Weiss and Sean Boily - will demonstrate on the pottery wheels.

"Niall took classes at UAS and is currently a student at the Canvas," Geselle said. "He also enjoys painting and his work is on exhibit this month at Heritage Café on Second Street."

Geselle said Fricky also is a student at The Canvas and has worked on the wheel for a few years.

"She is thrilled to be working on an electric wheel in the new studio," Geselle said of Fricky.

According to Geselle, the Rev. Thomas Weiss has had many years experience running a pottery studio in Oregon and he is excited to be returning to clay work.

"He has taught a few workshops at The Canvas in the past and hopes to teach more in the future," she said.

Hoping to find a community pottery studio, Boily moved to Juneau after working with clay for 10 years.

"Sean has helped bring the vision to life and is now happy to offer a demonstration at the opening as well as take more classes," Geselle said.

Rowan Law, who will teach jewelry making this fall at UAS, will demonstrate jewelry making at the opening, and Lisa Oberle will present a hands-on felting activity.

"Lisa is an experienced felter having taught several classes and hosted open studios for felting at The Canvas," Geselle said. "Some of her creations include scarves, hats, slippers and purses."

There also will be easels set up for painting. Kathy Hocker, who has taught nature drawing and field sketching at The Canvas, will offer sketching opportunities.

In the gallery, there will be sample treats from Pie in the Sky and other food and music and at 2 p.m., when The Canvas will recognize the donors that helped make its renovation possible.

The Canvas mission

According to Geselle, The Canvas will continue to hold a variety of art classes, including oil painting, watercolor, acrylic, drawing from nature, figure drawing, ikebana, printmaking and felting.

"We will have classes in handbuilding and wheel-throwing for beginning to advanced students, as well as parent-child classes," Geselle said.

The Canvas also hosts a pay-as-you-can family art day once a month.

"This month we had Family Tape Day, where people made wallets, hats and creatures out of duct tape," Geselle said. "We have also hosted a Family Junk Day that was a huge hit."

But even with its remodel, The Canvas' goals have remained the same.

"The mission driving this project has always been to promote the choice and well being of people with disabilities," Geselle said. "We see this happening every day at the Canvas. I am most excited to be able to share stories about how this is happening for people, about the gains I have seen in both the students attending daily and the community that wonders in forging new relationships with people they might not ordinarily meet.

"I am also excited to finally be able to announce to the public - this is who we are, and this is how it works. It is a very new model - there isn't another one like it."

• Neighbors editor Kim Andree can be reached at 523-2272 or

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