The 1st of June saw the gala premier of the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center's (KVCC) 2012 Wildlife Art Show. A show that has been two years in the making according to guest curator David Wartinbee PhD. "These exhibits don't just happen overnight and this show is truly very exciting and bigger than the ones I've done here in the past because we have nearly a hundred original pieces done by the best wildlife artists in the world. Most of these pieces were created specifically for this show and the only criteria was that the image had to be of an animal found in Alaska, there were no other restrictions to size, content or style. Some of the artists came to Alaska last summer especially to view subject for their works in this show," he said. "Wildlife Art takes me to places I have visited and animals I have encountered. It reminds me of the entire experience and the visceral feelings that were aroused. Each of us has our own personal reaction when we see wildlife. I hope this show of artwork will stir your personal memories and your imagination. Like prehistoric cave paintings, these images are telling stories," wrote Wartinbee in the show's program.
Nearly 300 community members turned out for the Wildlife show's premier taking advantage of the opportunity to purchase the original works before they were open to the public for sale. "Most of these works have never been seen before and are by the same name artists that are offered at famous auction houses around the world. There are collectors waiting to buy these originals but they were offered first to our local community," said Wartinbee. Former KVCC executive director Ricky Gease helped Wartinbee in the hanging of the show and expressed, "We are privileged to have Dr. Wartinbee in our community and to have these shows here at the Visitor and Cultural Center. The featured pieces here when you come in the show by Carl Brenders we actually have the pencil sketches of the paintings made by the artist as a study for the original so it is truly a unique experience and everybody in this community or visiting will want to come out and see this show summer," commented Gease.
The featured artist whose piece "Arctic Icon" was selected as the poster piece for the show, Dan Smith was on hand at the premier to visit with the public and told the Dispatch in an interview how he first became interested in art, "My interest in art started in my childhood actually and then ended up going into commercial art after high school and studied that and worked as a commercial illustrator about five years before I morphed into the wildlife genre so it was an evolution. My love of Alaska started in 1985 when I was commissioned to do the States first Duck Stamp and since then I've been coming up here on a pretty regular basis which has also caused my work to evolve and why Dave asked me to do this show. My fascination with detail really transpired as a result of being an illustrator and portraying products and selling them into the market place, so that has always been part of my DNA along with my passion for being in the wild. It's crucial for me to experience what I'm painting first hand and that's the fun part of what I do. Sitting in the studio is not as rewarding as being out in the field, seeing, experiencing, smelling and feeling the inspiration from the wildlife and being in the field and soaking it in," explained Smith.
Sponsors for Alaska 2012: A Celebration of Wildlife Art include ConocoPhillips and Central Peninsula Hospital at the Platinum level, HEA at the Gold level, Fred Braun, Freedom Realty and Tesoro Alaska at the Silver level. "Without our faithful sponsors this terrific show wouldn't have been possible so thank you to everyone who contributed and the KVCC staff who worked tirelessly during a very busy season to the premier happening. Ricky and Dennis Gease, Gail Niebrugge and James Adcox for their help hanging and lighting the show and of course David Wartinbee. The show runs through September 3rd and we're open seven days a week Monday through Friday 9:00am-7:00pm, Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm and Sunday's noon to 5:00pm," said Johna Beech.