Art beat: Joan Kimura exhibit opens at Blue.Hollomon Gallery today

Mike Dunham
The Anchorage Fire Department Engineer Corey Roberts finishes making a cut in a sweeper as Paramedic Craig Paulus holds onto the victim during a swiftwater rescue on Eagle River on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, 2012. They freed the paddler who was trapped in a kayak that was pinned under a fallen tree by the rain swollen glacial fed river.
Bill Roth

One of the founding mothers of contemporary arts in Alaska, Joan Kimura, is back in town for the opening of her first large-scale exhibit in 30 years. The exhibit will open with a reception at 1 p.m. today at Blue.Hollomon Gallery in the Olympic Center Mall, 3555 Arctic Blvd., Space C-5 -- the same general location as Jens' Restaurant and Scan Home furniture store.

Kimura, widow of photographer Sam Kimura, taught art at Anchorage Community College and the University of Alaska Anchorage from 1973 to 1994. The University of Alaska Anchorage Kimura Art Gallery is named for them. She is now retired and living in Gig Harbor, Wash.

The show, on display through June 20, includes drawings and paintings both in pastel and acrylic. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays. It's usually closed on Sundays, but today's event is an exception.

Smithsonian fete

The annual dinner for the Smithsonian Council for Arctic Studies will take place on Tuesday. The Council is a fundraising program consisting of private and corporate donors to Smithsonian projects in Alaska, the best-known manifestation being the Arctic Studies Center with its magnificent display of Native Alaska artifacts on the second floor of the Anchorage Museum. Membership is pricey, starting with an annual contribution of at least $2,500. But the Smithsonian's national membership -- Smithsonian Friends -- starts at $75. All of those members (which includes branches like the Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and so forth) are invited to attend a reception and exhibition tour Wednesday.

Aron Crowell, director of the Arctic Studies Center, says that such donations make up about 30 percent of the Smithsonian's budget. Funds raised by the Council for Arctic Studies, whose ranks include major donors like CIRI, ConocoPhillips and the Rasmuson Foundation, specifically go to Alaska projects.

You can find out more about Smithsonian Friends at

Judge questions contest outcome

The National Spelling Bee took place last week in Washington, D.C. I helped judge the Anchorage leg of the competition and previously wrote about my unease at some of the parameters imposed on local officials and contestants.

Former Daily News reporter Peter Porco recently experienced similar qualms and sent me the following letter:

I write this complaint on behalf of the youngster whose poem, "Rumplestiltskin," received scant notice in a statewide youth writing competition sponsored earlier this year by a local publication.

The author, a teenage boy or girl, is unknown to me. I was one of three judges for the poetry category of that competition, and we read the 29 poetry submissions blind -- without knowing the authors' names. We were asked to rank the poems, and I placed "Rumplestiltskin" second-best of the lot. It begins, "I am the hinge of every question,/the sound of the hard shod feet,/the voices heard in the kitchen,/and the cold slap of meat."

When the magazine announced the winners a few weeks later, "Rumplestiltskin" was nowhere in the listings -- not even an honorable mention. Also, my top choice, a poem called "Äiti (Mother)," ended up in 3rd place. Although a judge in the contest, I learned about none of this until the results appeared online.

Before you think I'm ticked off because my particular selections, my peculiar writing tastes, my own cherished views, or what have you, were not respected, you should know that I've been a judge in many writing contests, for both prose and poetry. I've captained judging teams for the Anchorage Daily News/University of Alaska Anchorage Creative Writing Contest. I know how the judging should work when all the judges for a particular genre are reading the same material. Common sense and perhaps long-standing judging protocols demand that the judges confer on their choices and endeavor to arrive at a unanimous decision. In every contest for which I was a judge, the judges in my category met in person. Horse trading does occur. I like these two poems, you're passionate about that one, what middle ground can we find?

If the judges cannot arrive at a unanimous decision, they can make their individual choices known to the contest coordinator with instructions that all judges' selections will be honored in some way.

Why was "Rumplestiltskin" eliminated from any award category? Why was my No. 1 pick a third-place finisher? I'm sure those who made such decisions have good reasons, but they never heard what I thought. I never got the chance to speak up for poems that I believed--after several re-readings of the submissions -- should rank at the very top of the batch. I received no invitation to meet the other judges, nor did I ever learn who they were. (After the contest, I sent email messages to both the contest coordinator and the magazine publisher about this issue and received no response to my questions.)

I believe the contest organizers slighted these two particular writers and they made me question the integrity of their competition, whose awards included publication in the magazine, a showcased reading before an audience, and time at a summer arts camp.

I have entered writing contests. I have won some. I have judged quite a few. I would never say such contests do not matter, because recognition is critical for artists, young ones especially. But I also would tell every writer and artist out there that they best not take these things too seriously. Judging, in some contests at least, appears to be little better than a crapshoot.

As for the authors of "Rumplestiltskin and "Äiti (Mother)," good work!

Gardening book praised

On May 14, Publishers Weekly published a review of Daily News columnist Jeff Lowenfels' latest book, "Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener's Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition" (Timber Press, $24.95). The reviewer called it "an indispensable resource for the serious organic farmer who did not major in organic chemistry."

"The book is weighty on the scientific level," the reviewer acknowledged, but said the structure and handy bullet-point summations for each chapter made it accessible. "Every farmer will benefit from some element in the book," it read, "if nothing else, from Grandpa Al's Can't Fail Recipe for organic fertilizer. For organic farmers who take the book seriously, it will forever change the way they look at the 'back forty.' "

Rescue photo wins prize

Congratulations to Daily News photographer Bill Roth, whose dramatic photo of Anchorage Fire Department personnel rescuing a kayaker pinned under a tree in the foaming waters of Eagle River on Sept. 16, 2012, took third place in the National Press Photographers Association's 2013 Best of Photojournalism Competition, Domestic News Single category.

The judges in this contest seem to be looking for exactly the same kinds of pictures that rivet the eyes of our candid readers to the page, images of disasters and victims taken under the most horrific circumstances. Fires, floods, wrecks, shootings. The gallery of winners/honorable mentions is must-viewing for all who enjoy stunning news images. Check it out here.