Art Beat: Time for payback: Seward works on gift for sister city in Japan

Mike Dunham

Twenty years ago the city of Obihiro, Japan, made a gift of a tea house/gazebo to its sister city Seward. About four years ago, Seward began taking steps to reciprocate. In September, a 32-foot-long mural will head from Alaska to Japan along with eight Alaska artists who will help install it at Obihiro's zoo.

The plan, designed by Justine Pechuzal, shows a map of the north Pacific with a moose on the Alaska side bearing chrysanthemums and forget-me-nots to a crane on the Japan side. A whale and eagle are also depicted.

Seward is home to an active group of muralists. The small town's 20 public murals have earned it the title of "Mural Capital of Alaska."

Like a lot of great ideas, it presented a "nightmare of planning," said Dot Bardarson, one of the artists involved.

"Supplies were the main challenge. Should Seward ship them or buy them there?" she wrote. "Complicating the process was the conversion of inches to metric, from dollars to yen, size differences, customs, security and a myriad of other difficulties discovered as we made our way through the planning. Their paint didn't match ours. Jars of sample paint were sent to us for comparison. Transportation and housing for the (eight) art delegates was another challenge, not easily solved. Hotels in Japan are expensive and mostly full."

But the group plunged ahead. In June a smaller replica of the main mural -- Bardarson called it a "dress rehearsal" -- was dedicated. It's mounted on the east wall of Murphy's Inn across the street from the Seward ball field. Among the volunteers who put hand to brush was Japanese Consul Koichi Funyama.

The completed mural, titled "Friendship Across Water," is due to be installed in Obihiro on Sept. 19. Alaska's art delegates -- each of whom was responsible for a separate part of the project -- will include Pechuzal, Bardarson, Jennifer Headtke, Linnea Hollingsworth, Al Lamberson, Kristi Larson, Sheila Morrow and Bethany Wagonner. Mayors Norihisa Yanezawa and David Seaward, of Obihiro and Seaward, will also take part in the formal dedication ceremony.

The Seward Mural Society is still seeking funds to cover the inevitable unanticipated costs. Donations may be sent by check to Seward Mural Society, Box 2666 Seward, AK 99664. For more information call Jennifer Headtke at 907-224-2228.

Reading on Monday

Award-winning poet Joan Kane, who recently made the news by raising money in an online campaign to visit King Island, her mother's traditional village, will give a reading and book signing at 8 p.m. Monday in room 101 of Rasmuson Hall at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Kane, a guest member of the Anchorage Daily News editorial board, received national attention with her first collection, "The Cormorant Hunter's Wife." Her next book, "Hyperboreal" (University of Pittsburgh Press) includes poems in parallel English/Inupiaq and is projected to be published in October of this year.

She will be joined at the reading by fellow writers Eva Saulitis and Carolyn Turgeron. The event is hosted by The 2013 Northern Renaissance Arts and Sciences Reading Series.

Music in Sitka

You may have caught James Poulson's photo of Sitka Summer Music Festival director Zuill Bailey playing his carbon fiber cello atop Mount Edgecumbe last weekend. The picture was among The Associated Press top photos of the day.

Bailey had hauled the instrument up a seven-mile trail to the rim of the 3,200-foot dormant volcano and gave what we presume to be the first performances of anything by Bach on that landmark as part of a fundraiser for Sitka Trail Works.

The summer festival is over, but a different musical event is planned in Sitka for Friday and Saturday. The Home Skillet Festival showcases eclectic musicians from around the country; it's been going on for eight years and is, in no small part, the brainchild of artist Nicholas Galanin, aka Silver Jackson, and is put on by the Alaska-based independent label Home Skillet Records.

It will take place at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 235 Katlian Street. More information and samples of the talent can be found at

Performing on the first night will be Zach "Rockwell" Powers, originally from Anchorage where he previously performed as a hip-hop artist and, as "Understatement," hosted a show on KRUA radio. He now lives in Tacoma, Wash., and is working on a new album, "Build," with producer/singer DJ Phinisey that he expects will be released in October. "I'm hopeful I will be able to travel up to Anchorage (where my parents still live) for a show this winter or spring," he writes.

Powers intends to send us on-the-ground reports from Skilletfest along with photos, which I'll post on the Play blog.

Plein air weekend approaches

The annual fundraiser for Clare House by the Plein Air Painters of Alaska will take place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 27 and 28. Once again, plucky open-air artists will be doing their thing and showing their work outdoors. There will be games with prizes supplied by the artists and Blaine's Art Supply. And, as always, it's free to attend.

Take Abbott Road east to Birch and turn right. The address is 5801 Barry Ave., which is immediately left off Birch. If you get lost, call 333-0793.

The field of painters is bigger than ever this year, and includes (in alphabetical order): Betty Atkinson, Dawn Aumann, James Belcher, Dianne Barske, Diane Block, Lynn Brautigan Boots, Denise Broussard, Becky Crawford, Nancy Angelini Crawford, Romie Deschamps, Louann Feldmann, Douglas Girard, Libby Hatton, Teri Jo Hedman, Kurt Jacobson, Don Kolstad, Cynthia Calder Kolstad, Karen Mattson, Mark McDermott, Earl Rider, Rick Schanche, Rhonda Scott, Jean Stuart, Dorothy Thompson, Dot Tideman, Marianne Wieland, Karen Whitworth and Chris Zafren. "Special guest artists" -- by which we think they mean performers -- are also promised.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.