Artists start to sketch out works for new school

Posted: Friday, July 29, 2005

It's unusual for public projects to integrate artwork with the building's construction, architects say. Usually, the art is added later.

But the redesign of the Dimond Park school - forced by a voters' initiative that canceled an earlier, larger version - allowed the city to include art in the process, said Sarah Lewis, a city architect who is managing the high school project.

The building's construction is expected to go out to bid late this year. The school could open in August 2008.

Architects hope to work with and see collaboration among the five artists chosen last month to participate. The artists will share in a budget of about $370,000, calculated as 1 percent of the school's construction budget.

Also, Tlingit carver Nathan Jackson of Ketchikan will restore the Wooshkeetaan totem pole, now at Centennial Hall, for relocation to the school's commons.

The artists were meeting Thursday and today to review each other's work, visit the school site, look at three-dimensional computer drawings of the building's interior - and start to sketch out, literally, what they might do.

Today's meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Juneau-Douglas High School library.

The five artists are:

• Michael Anderson of Cordova, who works in ceramic tiles, including large, elaborate representations of beaches and sea beds for public buildings.

• Barbara Craver of Juneau, who creates portraits and landscapes in pastels and acrylics.

• Dan DeRoux of Juneau, who works in various media but is perhaps best known as a painter of surreal juxtapositions of Alaska themes and European old master paintings.

• Wayne Price of Haines, a Tlingit who carves wood and works in other traditional Native media.

• Sheila Wyne of Anchorage, whose artwork with nontraditional materials such as industrial windows is hard to summarize.

"Nothing's safe around me, basically," Wyne said at the meeting Thursday morning at the Juneau Assembly chambers.

Wyne has created school art before, including bronze representations of constellations for the planetarium floor at West High School in Anchorage. She was able to work with contractors as they laid the floor, but usually her art is applied after the building is done.

Web links

To see examples of the artists' work, go to, under the engineering department, then go to the new high school, then the artistic team.

"Almost always the best I can do is what I call 'plunk art.' You just have to plunk it in someplace," she said. "It's very rare to do it this way."

DeRoux said he is familiar with collaboration from designing theater sets, but the school project will be a new adventure for him.

"This is going to take me into realms I really don't know where exactly it's going to go," he said. "I have ideas, but I'm ready to have them be completely altered."

Price, who has restored and created many totem poles, also has worked with at-risk youths in a project to carve dugout canoes.

He sees art as a way to connect people with the past. At one time in Native culture, every object was a work of art and provided that connection, he said.

"I bring to the table an open mind to try to work together and deliver a good message to these kids," Price said.

Craver agreed. She attended a large public high school, and thinks school is stressful for students.

"One of the things I think our art should do is help the kids connect," she said.

Craver was struck by the students' faces she saw in the JDHS yearbook, faces showing energy, shyness and hope, and she made pastel portraits of them as part of her proposal.

Integrating art with a building's construction also presents difficulties, architects and artists said.

Any requirements for contractors have to be spelled out in detail in the bid documents, said Paul Voelckers, architect with Minch Ritter Voelckers of Juneau, principal designers of the school.

"I have been waiting for a chance like this a long time," Price said. "I want a kid to come in (the school) and say, 'Wow, that's cool,' and get something from it."

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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