Photos and drawings owned by the late master carver Amos Wallace have been donated by his son, Brian, to Sealaska Heritage Institute.
A press release descibed the collection as "a treasure trove of original drawings made by the famous artist as he was designing totem poles and other carvings destined for museums, universities and private collections." Plans are for the images to be archived and shared at the Institute's Walter Soboleff Center, construction of which is scheduled to start next year.
Brian Wallace said his father was one of the few Native artists making Tlingit art in the mid-20th century. The senior Wallace was born in Hoonah in 1920. He picked up carving from his brother, Lincoln, and from Horace Marks while he was a high school student at the Wrangell Institute boarding school. He joined the Army in 1942 and saw combat action during World War II.
After the war, he and Lincoln traveled to Seattle and Portland, Ore., where they made their livings as carvers for 11 years.
A major break came in 1958, when he received a commission for a totem pole at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. The same year he appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jack Paar. Brian Wallace said, "Dad joked that he was the very first Tlingit TV star."
Alaska was in the news that year, in the process of becoming the 49th state. Suddenly, totem poles were in demand and Wallace was the go-to guy. He made poles for Disneyland, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaskaland (now Pioneer Park in Fairbanks) and several museums.
These pieces have since been viewed by millions of people from around the world. After decades in the California sun, the one in Disneyland is now in storage and not on display, we're told; but others, like the "Ohio Pole" inside the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and the ones in Fairbanks remain on display.
Wallace also served as Grand President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood three times. He died in 2004.
New poles in Saxman
On July 7, two Raven entrance poles by one of the liveliest and most innovative contemporary carvers, Donnie Varnell, were raised in Saxman's Totem Row Park.
You might think that Saxman doesn't need another totem pole, already being the site of several of the most famous such pieces in the world, but a press release noted that the new poles were replacements for older poles. Frog carvings created by Kelly White were also installed, which makes sense in that the replaced poles were located along what's known as the Frog Wall.
Literary awards on Tuesday
The 2012 Contributions to Literacy in Alaska Awards will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the UAA Fine Arts Building. A dessert reception will start things off, followed by the formal awards ceremony at 8 p.m.
The honorees, selected for their passion for literacy and literary-follows, with their accomplishments as cited in a press release:
• Sandy Solenberger of Barrow, selected for her volunteer work with the Tuzzy Consortium Library, Best Beginnings, the Imagination Library and Friends of the Library in America's northernmost town. Her focus on literacy for young children reaches outside Barrow to seven villages across the North Slope.
• Greg Hill of Fairbanks, director of the Noel Wien Public Library in Fairbanks and creator of "Guys Read," aimed at increasing readership among fourth grade boys in Fairbanks. The humorous and innovative program has spread to other communities in the Interior, and to a "Gals Read" program as well.
• Tom Sexton of Anchorage, former poetry editor of the literary journal Alaska Quarterly Review and former state poet laureate and UAA professor whose efforts were critical in establishing the school's creative writing program. He is the author of 11 collections of poetry, his most recent titled "Bridge Street at Dusk."
• Rachel Epstein of Anchorage, who organizes events at the UAA Campus Bookstore and enthusiastically promotes Alaska writers and writing. She brings a steady lineup of Alaska authors to the attention of the campus and Anchorage community, as well as events for students and amateur writers.
The awards, now in their 20th year, are presented by the Alaska Center for the Book, the state affiliate of the U.S. Library of Congress Center for the Book.
Following the award presentations, authors Sherry Simpson and Andromeda Romano-Lax will present readings as part of the Northern Renaissance Arts and Science Reading Series. The events are free and open to the public.
For more information, see alaskacenterforthebook.org.
Revisiting the Manhattan
Speaking of literature: Journalist Joe LaRocca has sent us a very thorough review of "Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage," by University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Ross Coen. The book, from University of Alaska Press, was previously noted on March 18 in the Reading the North column. LaRocca, who was on the ship that attempted to establish a tanker route for North Slope oil, says, "Prof. Coen's book is arguably the most important book written by an Alaska author on any subject."
The review, as we said, is thorough and too long for publication in this section of the paper, but we have posted it online, with the author's permission.
By the way, a review or critique doesn't need to be as authoritative as LaRocca's to warrant attention from at least some of our readers. If you'd like to try your hand at writing a review of a book by an Alaskan or on an Alaska topic, send it to me at the email below and it will be considered for including on the blog, with a reference in print from this column as posted.
Last call for funds
Today is the deadline for contributions for sending a dual production of Brian Hutton's "Return of the Twentieth Century Man" and "In Their Own Words: Emma Goldman and Adolph Fischer" to the Vermillion Gallery in Seattle next month. To raise travel money for three actors, a violinist and a sound tech, Hutton is using the USA Projects fundraising program. To make a donation and find out more, go to usaprojects.org, where you'll also find, in Hutton's words, "a nifty little video that takes you through a brief arc of both shows."
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.