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ArtBeat: Arts council unveils new work for state Art Bank

Mike Dunham
“Abandoned House in Blizzard” by Mary Virginia Stroud, was recently purchased by the state Art Bank.
Courtesy State Council on the Arts
“Inuit Hunter Mask,” by Mark Tetpon, was one of the pieces recently added to the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank
Courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
“February Raven," by Annie Duffy, was one of the pieces recently added to the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank
Courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
A new acoustic shell being installed in the Atwood Concert Hall at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage.
Photo by Nancy Harbour

The Alaska State Council on the Arts unveiled the 11 new pieces recently added to the Alaska Contemporary Art Bank at a reception on Aug. 7. The works by Alaskans join more than 700 other paintings, photos, sculptures and mixed-media items that are placed in public offices around the state. 

The biggest crowd seemed to gather around Mark Tetpon’s “Inuit Hunter Mask,” a large painted wood face surrounded by animal figures executed in whalebone and ivory -- about half a walrus’ worth of ivory, from the looks of it. I was particularly struck by the careful carving of two juxtaposed dancing walruses whose arms curved over their heads, almost as thin as ribbons.

Another big piece was “Fractured Sea Ice” by Sheila Wyne. The heavy encaustic media produced the appearance of a three-dimensional map. Another map form was “Kachemak Tundra” by Deland Anderson, which showed the lower Kenai Peninsula depicted in dots. Gail Niebrugge’s “Above the Wrangells” also gave the feeling of a map in that it showed terrain from a high altitude. Landscape, a recurring fixation for Alaska artists, was also featured in “Frost and Moraine,” an misty and mysteriously evocative oil by David Rosenthal. 

The acquisitions include two photographs, both taken in rural Alaska: “Boy at Play, Quinhagak, AK” by Wayde Carroll and “Abandoned House in Blizzard” by Mary Virginia Stroud. Fabric artists Julie Drake and Maria Shell each had small pieces selected. A fine ink drawing by Sara Tabbert, “Marker II,” was actually acquired in January in accord with the council’s custom of purchasing Art Bank work from the artist who designs the annual Governor’s Arts Award. 

There were two Aleut hunting visors on display at the reception and listed as "2014 Acquisitions" in the flier handed out at the door. One, “Spirit Hunter 2013,” by Peter Lind Jr., was purely decorative, almost a mask form similar to Tetpon’s, with a miniature visor flanked by hunter’s tools, harpoon, line and double-bladed paddle. The visor by Okalena Patricia Lekanoff Gregory was a full-size traditional piece, decorated but suitable for use. Listed as “new,” Gregory’s visor was not part of the formal round of acquisitions but, like Tabbert’s drawing, obtained under a different program. It was acquired via the council’s Alaska Living Cultural Treasure Master Artist Bentwood Hat residency program in 2013, but received this year, hence its inclusion.

Perhaps the most alluring item was an exquisitely translucent and fragile-looking paper-and-string basket by Annie Duffy titled “February Raven.” Duffy will be making the Governor’s Arts Awards this year.

The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development will display some of the new Contemporary Art Bank pieces during the Anchorage Parade of Homes, Sept. 12-14, at the “Alaska Home,” a habitation made and furnished largely with Alaska goods and products. 

New shell takes shape in Atwood

We were excited to get a look at the new acoustic shell being installed in Atwood Concert Hall last week. It is hoped that the $1.7 million assembly will brighten music in the auditorium. Overhead “clouds” and side panels with surfaces constructed of maple veneer will capture the sound before it disappears into the space above the stage and project it into the audience. The mechanics to adjust and tweak these main structures, and to get them out of the way when not in use for a concert, include a forest of cables and several motors, but the behemoth sections are sufficiently counter-balanced so that they can be moved by hand. 

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to test the new shell this week and the Anchorage Youth Symphony will test the old shell, now being relocated to the Discovery Theatre, which is in fact the space for which it was designed. The public will get its first chance to hear the difference at the ASO season opener with pianist Olga Kern on Sept. 27. 

Dancer becomes new ADT director

Alaska Dance Theatre has announced that Barry Kerollis will be the company’s new artistic director. Kerollis’ resume includes teaching and choreography, but he’ll be best known to Anchorage audiences as a dancer. In the past two years he was featured in ADT productions of new work, including Amy Seiwert’s “Monuments” and “Othello” (in the role of Cassio) and “Cash & Cline,” both by Gillmer Duran, the company’s former artistic director.

By the way, ADT is planning auditions for November’s production of “The Nutcracker.” More information is available at alaskadancetheatre.org or by calling 277-9591.

Music festival wraps up

The Anchorage Chamber Music Festival will present a faculty recital at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, in the UAA Fine Arts Building Recital Hall. A concert by students in the workshops that have been going on this month will conclude this year’s festival at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Anchorage Museum. Admission to each is by donation with proceeds benefiting the Anchorage Fine Arts Society.

Lit news

Congratulations to Alaska writers Tom Kizzia and Nick Jans, whose respective books “Pilgrim’s Wilderness” and “A Wolf Called Romeo” were both on the regional best-seller list (in different categories) put out by the Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers Association on Aug. 3. 

Other news from the world of publishing: Anchorage photographer Carl Battreall has contracted with Mountaineers Books for a new photography book encompassing “the entire Alaska Range.” Battreall previously published a fine color photography book of the secret and not-so-secret places of the Chugach.

Battreall’s book will include six essays by Alaskans and is expected to be released in the spring of 2016. A traveling exhibit based on the photos is planned in conjunction with the book.

Contact Mike Dunham at or on