Five of the six living former mayors of Anchorage joined the city's current chief executive for an autographing marathon on Tuesday morning. The purpose of the event was to get their signatures on 550 prints commemorating the 100th anniversary of Anchorage, prints that will be sold to help finance other events honoring the centennial.
Tony Knowles, Tom Fink, Rick Mystrom and George Wuerch, along with Mayor Dan Sullivan and Jack Roderick, the last mayor of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough, which merged with the City of Anchorage to form the present municipality in 1975, sat at tables lined up in the Discovery Ballroom in the Hotel Captain Cook. Former mayor and now-Sen. Mark Begich had previously signed the copies on a trip to Anchorage. Artist Byron Birdsall, who created the print, was also there signing his name to his work.
"This would be tough on Arliss Sturgulewski," said Fink, who seemed to be beating the others in completed signatures.
Each mayor had two or three assistants passing them prints and holding a template in position so that each could put his name in the right spot. All were scrawling simultaneously and the prints were organized at a central table according to who had or had not yet signed them. The process, with a lunch break, went like clockwork and as of late Tuesday morning Tennys Owens, owner of the Artique, Ltd. gallery, was confident that the work would be done by the afternoon.
Birdsall's print has undergone some changes from the version shown at the July 16 press conference about the official Centennial Celebration. The original showed Anchorage as a tent city 100 years ago with the Chugach Mountains in the background. In the foreground, reflected in the waters of Knik Arm, was an image of the city skyline as it looks today.
The celebration's advisory committee thought it would be more appropriate to show modern Anchorage, Owens said. So, Birdsall revised the picture to show the modern skyline both below the Chugach and in the reflection. A smaller panel on the lower right side of the print shows the tent city.
The prints are all embossed with an anchor, the Centennial logo. It was pressed into the heavy paper with a small hand press, "like a giant stapler," Owens said. "I couldn't find one in the U.S., I had to get it from England."
The giclee print measures just under 30 by 24 inches. One hundred copies will be used as presentation gifts to various dignitaries, benefactors and organizations. Four hundred and fifty numbered copies, with the signatures of the artist and the mayors, are being offered for sale to the public at $450 each. The price does not include framing.
Orders are being taken now at Artique -- to order, email email@example.com or call 907-277-1663. The prints will be available for pickup on Sept. 13, the date when the Centennial Celebration will roll out a new documentary about the city's past. Any unspoken-for and unpaid-for prints remaining will be available at that time.