Alice Tersteeg has been exercising her creative muscles lately. Last month, the local artist and former University of Alaska Southeast professor of art was featured in exhibits at both the Canvas and Annie Kaill's, in two shows that highlighted her extensive influence on the arts community of Juneau. The Canvas show, which included Tersteeg's work, featured pieces by many of her former students in a variety of media, from silk screen prints to etchings. The Annie Kaill's show featured art from Tersteeg's personal collection, and was organized to raise money to help pay for large medical bills her husband incurred before he succumbed to lung cancer in July.
This month she headlines a second show at Annie Kaill's, this time featuring her own original work. The show opens Friday with a First Friday reception also celebrating the downtown gallery's 35th anniversary.
Born in northern California, Tersteeg earned a degree in art from the University of California Chico, then received her masters in fine arts from Syracuse University - in spite of her father's wishes.
"I was always interested in art and I knew it was all I wanted to do, but my father thought it wasn't a very practical career - that didn't deter me at all," said Tersteeg.
Tersteeg paved the way for many more people to tap into their creative energy by creating new art degrees at UAS, including an associate of arts degree and certificate in Northwest Coast Art. It's the accomplishment she's most proud of.
"I was working to support the Northwest Coast Art program, which I started in 1983 with Dr. William Demmert," Tersteeg said. "Members of the community had come to the university to ask if the classes could be offered on a more regular basis because they were hit and miss, so we started the program."
With her help, UAS went on to offer bachelor's degrees in art, as well as degrees with an art emphasis, for a total of five art degrees.
"To me that was my biggest life goal, to provide that many opportunities for students."
The importance of art
"I think they are making a huge mistake when they start cutting art programs and music programs. These are areas of creativity that are absolutely essential for people to grow," Tersteeg said. "If you go through your life without creating artwork or always listening to other people's music instead of creating your own music, then you may be doing a disservice to yourself - there may be a lot more creativity inside you that never comes out."
While doing art is often perceived as relatively expensive, Tersteeg believes making different choices can lead to more creative endeavors.
"If you spend your money on expensive cars or expensive sound systems or talk on the phone a lot, what do you have to show for it when you are finished? If you are spending money on art supplies, you are doing yourself a lot of good for your own mental health as well as developing the creative muscle."
Tersteeg moved to Sitka in 1973 after doing graphic design in Chico. She worked for eight years at Sitka's community college before taking a job at UAS in Juneau in 1981, where she fell in love with the setting. She's lived here 35 years.
"It was the setting and the personality, and it's the size city and state where you think you can make a difference."
Tersteeg met her husband Roger, who'd moved to Juneau from Minnesota, on a blind date set up by one of her students, Joanie Dahl, who was a model for one of Tersteeg's drawing classes.
Although Tersteeg sticks primarily to landscapes and wildlife, she did a show last year titled "Chrome" which showcased her appreciation for Harley Davidson motorcycles the Pandhandlers biker club, which she says collects toys for kids and coordinates other charitable fundraisers.
Her husband Roger was a mechanic in town and he loved restored cars and liked to attend car shows like "Dip Sticks" in Juneau, which got her interested.
Tersteeg recently suffered a huge loss - her husband died of cancer. Roger was a smoker and Tersteeg urges people to do whatever they can to help their loved ones stop smoking and to prepare for financial strain of potential illness.
"Discuss medical coverage early and often," Tersteeg said.
Her husband's Social Security did not cover the costs of emergency transportation because he was covered under Tersteeg's insurance at the time. When she retired, he was no longer fully covered.
She also advises people to look into emergency Medevac insurance with ground transportation, such as the one offered through Apollo MT for $100 a year. Airlift Northwest is another option for $79 a year that covers entire households but they don't offer coverage for ground transport. Without the insurance, the air and ground emergency transportation can cost over $50,000.
Tersteeg has been through some stressful experiences, but is doing better.
"I have a wonderful support system of friends and I would never move anywhere else because I have such wonderful friends here. There's no way to explain how important that is."
Courtney Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.