Art Beat: Giant glass in Juneau, mystery dinner in the Valley

We recently got our first peek at what is said to be "the largest glass screen in the world." At 17 feet wide and 12 feet high, that seems like a credible claim. Note the term "screen" here means a full-wall frieze found in traditional Northwest Indian clan houses, made out of cedar in years past.

This screen, however, will be by glass artist Preston Singletary and will adorn the clan house inside the new Walter Soboleff Building now under construction in Juneau. Sealaska Heritage Institute sent us a sketch of the screen. The real deal will be unveiled when the building opens on May 15.

Singletary is making the screen at his studio in Seattle with help from assistants Nicholas Galanin, Alison Bremner and Crystal Worl. They're also called "apprentices," although each has a notable reputation as an artist in his or her own right. The term implies that they're expected to learn something about glass from glass master Singletary.

The apprentices didn't get the job because of their reputations, however. Applicants had to submit copies of their formline designs without their names attached. Singletary then reviewed the submissions and made his recommendations to the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

When complete, the screen will be flanked by two figures representing warriors of Eagle and Raven clans, about 7 1/2 feet high. The shapes are being carved from cedar but will be used to cast the figures in glass.

Mary Goddard and David Roger Lang will assist in the installation of the giant glass piece.

Juneau two-fer

Among the First Friday openings this week are the solo shows by two Juneau artists at Alaska Pacific University -- the first Anchorage exhibit for either of them. Constance Baltuck's paintings suggest natural forms in an abstract way, with bright acrylics on board. In Barbara Craver's show, titled "XTRATUF Landscapes" the colors are similarly enhanced but the scenes of places you might hike in rubber boots are more realistic and even identifiable.

What makes the APU shows particularly interesting is this: In addition to the usual 5:30 p.m. opening reception on Friday, March 6, they'll also be on hand for an "invitational" reception from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7. The shows will remain on display through March 27.

Also worth noting, at the other end of University/Providence/36th, on the corner with Arctic Boulevard, is Blue.Hollomon Gallery, where they're holding a retrospective of work by the late Catherine Doss Senungetuk.

Good reading in Craig

The Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., has announced 30 finalists for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Contenders include the public libraries in Phoenix, Arizona (population 1.5 million), Brooklyn, New York (population 2.6 million), Los Angeles, California (population 3.8 million), and Craig, Alaska (population 1,201).

The award is given to "institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service to make a difference for individuals, families, and communities." The institute encourages people familiar with the contestants to share their stories at It's not sure how much weight such stories will have in the final decision, but the winners will be announced this spring.

The sound of words

Speaking of libraries, the nonprofit Read Aloud 15 Minutes reminds us that March is "Read Aloud Month." "Reading aloud for 15 minutes every day, starting at birth, is the best way to prepare (a) child for learning to read and school success," the nonprofit says in a press release. We agree. Start with this column. It's sure to thrill your youngster. Or go to for more information.

Food and art

Folks in the Mat-Su Valley may be on to something. We've noticed more art events including food lately; not just finger food, crackers and grapes, but real high-quality, sit-down dinners. Last Friday, for instance, Fireside Books and guests dined at Turkey Red with Rachel Weaver, author of "Point of Direction" set in Southeast, a novel that's been featured in Oprah Magazine and is getting attention from independent booksellers around the country. A band called Feral Cats supplied the dinner music. More such events are planned but not scheduled, we hear. But literati with a foodie side can find out more at

This weekend a group called Hope for Heroes will hold an interactive dinner mystery show in two venues. "The Hopeless Diamond Exposition" will be presented at Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center, 22424 N. Birchwood on Friday, March 6; doors open at 6 p.m. It will then travel to Wasilla where the action will begin with the fundraising dinner and silent auction at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8. The Wasilla shows take place at Mat-Su Family Restaurant, 401 W. Parks Highway. If you're driving to Fairbanks, that's just past the Mug-Shot Saloon but before you get to the turn-off to Todd and Sarah Palin's place.

The set-up for "The Hopeless Diamond Exposition" involves a gemologist with a fabulously expensive, but cursed, diamond, the history of which he will explain in a talk to the guests. Since evil-doers are bent on claiming the rock, he's hired several detectives for security. The performers are provided by the Homeless Actors of Mat-Su, or HAMS. Tickets are $25 for the Chugiak show, $35 for the Mat-Su experience, and must be purchased in advance at or by calling 907-376-4252.

Two Rondy craft shows

The Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market at the Dimond Center is probably the single biggest annual emporium of Alaska Native art and craftwork anywhere. It continues from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. March 6 and 7, and wraps up noon-5 p.m. March 8. Among the many more than 100 tables, search out Peter Lind Jr. of Homer, who has brought a striking 2-foot-long ceremonial bowl carved atop a sea otter form.

There's a second arts and crafts venue at Rondy time that may merit a stop, particularly if you happen to be downtown for the events. It's in the 4th Avenue Market Place, 333 W. Fourth Ave., also known as the Ship Creek Center or, once upon a time, the Post Office Mall. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8.

Centennial notes

The Anchorage Museum's "City Limits" exhibit opens March 6 and goes through Oct. 11. It's a look at the history and growth of the area over the past 100 years in photos, artifacts and maps occupying four galleries.