If you've been downtown for the Fur Rendezvous events, you may have stepped into the 4th Avenue Marketplace to discover 40 or more tables with arts and crafts being sold. The former Post Office Mall is continuing to evolve in its quest to provide a permanent downtown venue for Alaska Native artists.
The Two Spirits Gallery and space for carvers to work was originally paid for by a grant through Cook Inlet Tribal Council, with checkered success. Recently the gallery was sold to Karen Tocktoo, who had been the retail manager. The studio space -- now the Two Spirits Carving Studio -- was sold to Robert Raphael, who can often be found at work there along with other artists that he's assisting.
Two Spirits Gallery will have its grand opening 1-5 p.m. Tuesday.
Among the attractions at the moment are the contemporary art that will be auctioned at the annual fundraiser for Koahnic Broadcast Corporation. KNBA will be broadcasting live from the opening reception.
When I stopped by last week, I found some remarkable work by Audrey Armstrong, Roger Wassillie and Sonya Kelliher-Combs among others and was told more is on the way. The work will be available for inspection through March 17.
In addition to the two new Native-owned businesses, other art-craft venues are gravitating to the place, including the relocated One People Gallery, a fur shop and Linda Warford's new gallery. The Craft Alaska arts and crafts fair, which opened on Friday, continues today and returns next Saturday, at the start of the Iditarod Race. There will be food and drink (as well as bathrooms) for the fans of mushing dogs and racing reindeer.
The 4th Avenue Marketplace has remained somewhat under the radar for tourists, despite the fact that it has largely been the only place downtown where visitors could regularly watch and interact with Native craftsmen. Advertising for the Alaska Experience Theatre has brought some out-of-towners this way. Tables set up on the sidewalk outside a year or two ago helped boost the bazaar image, but many vendors have lamented that tourists weren't in the mood to spend much money.
With luck that will change. Tocktoo noted that Anchorage will have extra cruise ships this year and, she hoped, some of those passengers will find their way to Fourth Avenue and D Street.
I hope so too.
Big sound in New York
The cavernous Armory on New York City's Park Avenue was built in 1877 to supply warm, dry indoor drill space for a military regiment. Since the regiment drew from Manhattan elites, the public rooms and library were designed by Louis Tiffany, among others.
Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams composed "Inuksuit" with the intent that it would be performed outdoors by anywhere from 9 to 99 percussionists in an interplay with natural sounds. The 70-minute piece and the Armory wouldn't seem to fit, but last Sunday at something called the Tune-In Music Festival it happened.
An inuksuit, by the way, is a human figure made from stones, used as markers and guideposts by Inuit along the Arctic Ocean and built just for the fun of it by gardeners and landscapers elsewhere.
The New York Times "Artsbeat" blog (not to be confused with the original "ArtBeat" in the Anchorage Daily News) reported that 1,200 people inside the hall (in addition to scores of musicians) heard the ambient sounds of adjacent streets mixed in via speakers.
Some appeared to be in meditative repose, others walked around and talked with their companions as the music played.
"The players emerged slowly from a circular configuration at the heart of the room, to the windy shush of breath through paper megaphones," said the Times.
"Sandpaper and stones scraped, bullroarers moaned, and plastic sound hoses wailed as the performers slowly dispersed to stations throughout the hall and in adjacent corridors and stairway landings."
The writer also noted conch-shell blasts, wailing sirens, thunderous tom-toms and sizzling cymbals -- their adjectives, not mine. "The piece ends with an exuberant profusion of bird song on glockenspiels, triangles and piccolos, as if in the wake of a mighty storm."
In an e-mail, Adams said he was delighted with the event. "'Inuksuit' is an outdoor piece. Performing it inside was an experiment. I'm not sure I'll do it again.
"But I learned a lot that I expect to be useful in future work. And the experience of hearing the piece played by a small army of the best percussionists in North America for an enthusiastic audience of 1,200 people is something I'll never forget."
Adams also said that plans are afoot to organize two concurrent outdoor performances on summer solstice with 99 musicians in each ensemble in New York's Morningside Park.
'Cabaret' at Wild Berry
Christian Heppinstall, who previously directed a production of the musical "Cabaret" at Mad Myrna's, is doing a second coming of the show at the Wild Berry Theater, next to Alaska Wild Berry Products shop at Juneau Street and International Airport Road. Production times will be 8 p.m. March 3-April 9, with tickets available at centertix.net. Leslie Ward is handling the choreography.
Heppinstall said the show would use moving film imagery of the type he employed in the recent "Reefer Madness" at the same venue. He added that he relished the chance to take a second shot at "Cabaret" in the genuine theater space.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.