Out North program gets new life from former employees

Art Snob Blog

When the Anchorage “contemporary art house” Out North abruptly went out of business in July, a major collaboration with several art groups outside Alaska remained dangling. The company had been scheduled to host “Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet,” an artistic and cultural exchange program focusing on contemporary Islamic societies sponsored by a $1 million grant through Arts Midwest. Several artists, starting with Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek, were to be part of the project in Anchorage.

“Dawnell (Smith, former executive director) set up the Caravanserai to be the backbone of our season,” said Ryan Anderson, Out North’s former technical director and events coordinator. “Arts Midwest is a huge organization, so we kinda landed a big fish. They were spending $125,000 on just the Alaska leg of the tour.”

A couple of weeks after Out North closed without warning, Anderson wound up being the first person to break the news to Arts Midwest. The Minnesota-based group began casting around for a new partner.

“For a while they were leaning toward UAA, but that didn’t work out,” Anderson said. At which point he and Ruby Jones, Out North’s former marketing director, offered to pick up the ball. They formed their own enterprise, R&R Productions and set about pulling Tekbilek’s Anchorage stint out of “limbo.” 

“They contracted with us to do what we were going to do anyway at out North,” Anderson said.

The two were involved with the Sept. 21 “Light Brigade” performance event at the Anchorage Museum, a multi-disciplinary effort that included dancers, musicians, aerialists and lights. “So we established a relationship with the museum. We met with (interim director) Julie Decker and formed a partnership.”

Tekbilek’s public performance will now take place at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at the museum. “Much of the community outreach formerly established by Dawnell Smith has been preserved,” the two added in a press release announcing a week-long residency by the Turkish musician. 

"This performance is free," said Jones. "But we will be asking for donations on behalf of Arts Midwest to support the rest of the tour. The most important thing to us is to get the art into the community."  

Other Caravanserai events are scheduled for January and April. Anderson and Jones say they will have forthcoming announcements regarding details.

Members of the public can contact anderson at rjt.anderson@gmail.com.


Mike Dunham