Tent for Native artists a new fair feature

Mike Dunham

PALMER -- It's easy to walk by the Donlin Creek Raven's People Tent at the Alaska State Fair. It's immediately to the left as you enter through the Red Gate and something is usually going on dead ahead on the Colony Stage -- Chinese acrobats, hip-hop or belly dancers -- to distract the visitor.

But it's something new at this year's fair, a bazaar of sorts, featuring several notable Alaska Native artists and craftsmen at their work. While individual Native artists have had their own booths in the past, this is the first time we've seen a collection like this.

The big white tent with an atrium area is only part of the "campus," which spreads into an adjoining building and along the walkway -- weather permitting.

Throughout the day from time to time there is drumming, dancing and storytelling on a stage in the tent. Jack Dalton's whimsical play "Raven's Radio Hour" will be presented there at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 and 4, and at 3 p.m. Sept. 5.

Items on display earlier this week included wearable articles knit from musk ox qiviut, jewelry and ivory carvings. There were pieces in Yup'ik, Inupiat, Tlingit and other indigenous styles. One spotted some work displayed in fine art galleries around town, along with the artists themselves.

Among those on hand was painter Ken Lisbourne, whose popular and colorful depictions of life around Point Hope fairly glowed when viewed under the sunlight on a bright day.

Also from Point Hope, Othniel "Art" Oomittuk, Jr. Oomittuk's work, seen earlier this year at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery, emphasizes the surreal. He now spends most of his time in Amsterdam, Holland but is temporarily back in Alaska visiting friends and family.

Jerry Lieb, aka "Sivaluaq," was on hand with his widely admired decorated drums. A storyteller himself, he had an assortment of "story knives." Most were normal size, but a few were miniatures.

"What are those for?" I asked.

"Short stories," he replied.

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.

Reader photos: Alaska State Fair
Photos: Alaska State Fair
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