Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Looking forward to looking back — Visitors center announces historic next show

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

As community members gathered for one last look at the statewide summer art show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, “Alaskan Light: Mystery Revealed,” they got a preview of the statewide art show to come, which in itself will be a look back.

The closing reception for the 2007 show on Sept. 9 included an announcement of the theme for Kenai’s 2008 invitational statewide art exhibition — “Reflections on Alaska Statehood: The 49th at 50.”

Guest curator, photog-rapher Barry McWayne, of Fairbanks, said the show is about artists taking inspiration from history and representing it in a contemporary way.

“This year’s theme gives us a special opportunity to reflect on the diversity and range of interests, communities, lifestyles, landscapes, weather, politics and much more that make up our northern homeland. I encourage the invited artists to embrace this opportunity with vigor,” McWayne said.

Artists in a range of mediums from across the state, including the Kenai Peninsula, will be invited to submit work for the show. McWayne said he will do whatever he has to do to ensure diversity is achieved.

“I’m not adverse to bullying people I’ve never met,” he said.

That will give viewers on the central Kenai Peninsula a look at representations of history on a statewide and regional level.

“Some artists will want to deal with overarching issues that have affected all of Alaska during these 50 years of statehood, but it is my hope that most will look locally to say something about the special nature of their part of the 49th state,” McWayne said.

He’s confident the artists will rise to the challenge.

“Even with our widely varied climate and topography, we Alaskans have more in common than not,” he said. “I always find it fascinating to experience well-made, thoughtful art that plays to regional topics with local flavor and at the same time manages broad appeal — hard to do, but so worth the effort.”

The show will include an extra dose of local flair, as students from Kenai Peninsula College will contribute to the documentary and expressionistic nature of the show. Communications and arts students will be paired with residents who have been in Alaska since statehood. Students will document the residents’ experiences and create art that is inspired by those experiences. The results of the pairings will be displayed with the art show.

“Reflections on Alaska Statehood: The 49th at 50” will go on display in May and will stay up through the winter, giving school groups and other viewers ample time to take in what the show will have to offer.

McWayne said he encourages artists and art viewers to take advantage of this unique experience.

“I don’t think people really realize how important this show is on a statewide level,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to be part of this moment in history. I think it’s really worthwhile to be part of the statehood celebration.”

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