Longtime Fairbanks gallery calls it quits

August 21, 2009 

For those in the market for a classic Sydney Laurence painting, Fred Machetanz print or sculpture by Jacques and Mary Regat, the next few days may afford the chance to get it at a discount.

Patricia "Jinx" Whitaker is cleaning out the till at the New Horizons Gallery in Fairbanks, one of the foremost emporia of Alaska art. The shop will close Aug. 31 after 30 years in business.

An article in the Fairbanks News-Miner on Aug. 8 attributed the closure to the general economic downturn, a sharp drop in Fairbanks tourism and business problems affecting Whitaker and her husband, Jim, the mayor of the North Star Borough.

There's a silver lining, however, at least for art lovers. The same newspaper article reported a "crush of people and sales" as Fairbanksans learned that the gallery was closing -- and that prices had been reduced 30 percent.

Jinx Whitaker confirmed the boom in sales in a phone call. "Where have all these buyers been in the last year and a half?" she asked before answering her own questions. "The 30 percent off has helped stimulate people who have been in love with something into finally getting it. Then there's the other side of Fairbanks, people coming in to say good-bye, but then falling in love with something they see while they're here."

The gallery grew out of Whitaker's family store, The Paint Pot, which sold house paint in the 1950s and started including artist supplies and framing services in the 1960s. She started her stand-alone gallery in 1979.

"At first I thought I needed to look different than the other two galleries in town, so I went kind of modern, abstract -- the stuff my customers brought me to frame.," she said. "But within a couple of months I changed my tune. Alaskans and tourists want to buy what they see, McKinley, the Northern Lights, fireweed, wolves, bears."

New Horizons established itself as the Interior's source for "old masters" like Machetanz, Ted Lambert, Harvey Goodale, as well as the generation of painters who followed them, Scott McDaniels, Mark Bartlett, Barbara Lavallee, Byron Birdsall and the late Joan Kickbush.

Whitaker also handled estate sales and appraisals. She tirelessly promoted new and little known talent, an advocacy role she's pursuing to the end.

The featured artist for this final month is James Adcox, an up-and-coming painter living in Nome. "He's one of the few artists I know who has doing paintings of rural Alaska," she said.

Out North: 25 and counting

Another fixture on the Alaska art landscape, Out North, will celebrate it's silver anniversary Thursday.

The launch party will feature live music, beer, wine, food and a silent auction.

The event will take place from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $25, available at www.outnorth.org.

Saturday night's all right for toasting

Last year Elton John honored Anchorage with two performances here.

On Saturday, Anchorage returns the honor at the Anchorage Symphony League's 41st Annual Champagne Pops concert.

The show will be a tribute to the master hit-maker. Vocalist Jean Meilleur and pianist John Regan will join the orchestra in presenting a bevy of Sir Elton's best, from "Tiny Dancer" to "Rocket Man" while patrons enjoy bubbly, hors d'oeuvres, dessert and coffee at the symphony's biggest and flashiest fundraiser.

Because "The Lion King" is loading in over at Atwood Hall, the event will take place at the Denai'ina Civic and Convention Center, starting with a no-host reception at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Individual tickets are $130, with tables for 10 starting at $1,250. Call 274-8668 or e-mail aso@ak.net, or do it online at their website, anchoragesymphony.org.

Got vinyl?

Sir Elton sounded pretty good when he played here live. But let's face it, there's no substitute for listening to "Benny and the Jets" on a genuine 33 1/3 rpm record. And you just might find one at the Fairbanks Record Expo, taking place starting 10 a.m. Sept. 12 at the Alaska Railroad Train Depot, 280 S. Cushman St. The organizers tried this once before, in June, and had over 7,000 items show up, including LPs, tapes, 8-tracks, posters and even some collectable CDs. Though it's still three weeks off, we figured Anchorage music lovers would appreciate the advance notice. Get more information by calling 1-907-699-9737, e-mailing Jupiter@planetarysounds.com or going online to fairbanksrecordexpo.com.

On the web

There weren't a lot of "Second Friday" art openings on Aug. 14, but we caught some and have posted our remarks at adn.com/artsnob. Add your thoughts about what you're seeing on the walls of galleries around town. And check the online gallery at adn.com/artwalk.


Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.

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