There’s an inordinate amount of blending required to paint a history of Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski area; it may have something to do with the outdoor latex paint, which requires layer after layer to bring out vivid color and still more work to blend colors together.
The blending is the last step in bringing together the wildlife, Alaska Natives, fishermen in the area together for a mural —the newest addition to the Triumvirate Theatre’s unfinished North Kenai facility — which will be on unveiled Monday at 4 p.m. inside the warehouse facility five miles North of Kenai on the Spur Highway.
While the blending is difficult, it’s a process that muralist James Adcox said has taught him a lot about bringing several smaller elements together and filling a space, rather than relying on one big element to tell a story.
The project was funded primarily by a grant through the Alaska State Council on the Arts, said Chris Jenness, a longtime volunteer for the theatre and, like the varies scenes depicted in the mural, had a lot of people involved in its creation.
Several kids in the community primed the panels for the mural and did some of the coloring on the larger elements although Adcox did the design and painting for the project.
Jenness said one of the specifics of the grant was that kids needed to be involved in the project which, he said, dovetailed nicely into the organizations mission of performing arts education.
Students from Nikiski as well as Kenai’s detention facility came out to lend a hand in preparing the mural before Adcox could get to work, Jenness said
“The kids sped up that process a lot,” Adcox said of getting the mural ready to be painted. “After buying material it was maybe four days of priming and then constructing the structure that the panels were mounted on.”
Adcox paints with the mural upright and almost flat against one wall of the theatre’s warehouse.
“I’m not a muralist who could paint with it all flat on sawhorses, though I’ve seen other people do that. It’s challenging to me to be able to see it all come together,” he said.
When the group is ready, the mural will be disassembled and moved outside to be hung on the exterior of the warehouse.
So, Adcox had to paint using exterior latex, a process that added to many hours of adding layers and blending color.
The piece is broken up into several vignettes depicting memorable events in the area’s history, a process local Anthropology professor Alan Boraas was integrally involved in, said Adcox.
“Being somewhat new to the area that was really important to me, to know what to put in,” Adcox said.
As he spoke about the scenes on the mural, Adcox gestured to a scene illustrated with the bright orange and red tones of a fire.
“This scene actually is a very tamed, toned down, no-victim showing Battle of Kenai which I thought was really interesting,” he said. “An interesting part of our history about the Russian traders getting run off by the Dena’ina people.”
In addition to the historical advice Boraas shared with Adcox, he also cautioned the painter to be careful what things were emphasized.
“I want to be mindful of ... all people’s perspective on the area and surely I’m not going to appease and satisfy everyone but the idea of making maybe the larger elements something not political,” Adcox said. “My two largest elements are wildlife, they’re a safe element to enlarge...Most of the figures are about the same size, I’m not paying any close attention to any one group of people in history.”
Jenness said once the mural was hung he hoped the community would draw some appreciation from seeing it on the way through the area.
“In a lot of ways, what we’re hoping this does is say ‘Thank you.’ We’ve been given so much by this community,” he said. “It’s a small organization, we don’t have a major, gigantic backer of any kind.”
While the Triumvirate’s North location is not yet read to open, Jenness said he hoped Monday’s reception would help people see what the group’s vision was for the building and what volunteering is helping the theatre do.
“This is what your work is helping us get to,” Jenness said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org