Meghan Holtan has been walking the Chester Creek Trail on stilts this week to interview strangers and create audio recordings of their favorite experiences along the popular Anchorage trail.
Her "Tall Tales" are part of the Seeking the Source project, a community art mapping endeavor that began May 17 and will conclude this Saturday, May 23.
The project is curated by artist Jimmy Riordan, who grew up in Anchorage and has lived near the Chester Creek Trail for many years. "For me it's one of the most diverse landscapes in the parks system in Anchorage, in that it bumps up against a lot of different communities and also has a variety of different natural landscapes," said Riordan. "You've got wetlands, you've got the bird habitat at Westchester Lagoon, you've got these forested areas, so it was that diversity that we were intrigued by."
The intention of Seeking the Source is to collect a history of the trail and the neighborhoods that surround it. Eight artists have converged to contribute in their own ways to mapping the trail, while also working with community groups that use the trail and people who have historic or scientific knowledge about it.
In addition to Holtan, tattoo artist Sara Frary is making drawings of the trail, amateur cartographer Colin Allen is creating a hand-drawn map and Ayden LeRoux is writing a collection of work inspired by the trail.
Alaska's elder statesman Vic Fischer and community activist Lanie Fleischer participated in a talk about the creation of the Chester Creek Trail at Valley of the Moon Park. Fischer told Riordan that he was happy to be part of the conversation, "but I have no idea what you're doing."
Riordan acknowledges that some people are perplexed by the project, which includes a special smartphone app and an "augmented reality" guidebook. The booklet reveals information gathered by the artists when users scan QR codes into the Junaio app, available for iOS and Android. It's an ambitious and conceptual project but one that Riordan says he hopes will give value to trailgoers for years to come.
Anchorage residents can join the conversation by participating in a community walk along the trail starting at 12 p.m. Saturday in Russian Jack Park and ending in Valley of the Moon Park.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing