People told Fanny Ryland she would likely not win the Paint the Kenai Community Mural Project.
She is originally from France — she has an accent to prove it — and they told her a longtime Kenai Peninsula resident would probably win.
“I really didn’t expect to win,” she said.
But she did.
Fostering community identity is a prominent theme of the Peninsula-wide art contest, Marcus Mueller, past president of the Soldotna Rotary Club, told the Kenai City Council Wednesday night — and Ryland said it did that for her. She feels welcome, the Kenai resident said.
The project, now a year under way, has many goals, Mueller said. It is an avenue to advance community identity. It will demonstrate that public art solidifies that community identity. It will inspire and empower local artists to think about contributing art in a public way. And it is an opportunity for artists to advance their skills and expand their boundaries, Mueller said.
Now, with Ryland’s painting selected, other artists from the community will paint an enlarged version of the mural on a 12-by-24-foot sheet of aluminum. At Wednesday’s city council meeting, Mueller said the Rotary Club wants to place the final mural between the departure and arrival doors of the Kenai Municipal Airport.
The project’s estimated budget is $18,000, he said.
Mueller wants to create a common community vision with the project. He got the idea from Seward, the self-proclaimed mural capital of Alaska. The city is painted in murals, he said, and when he visits, the art connects him to the community.
“We look forward to this being a mural that is enjoyed by residents and visitors and will, at some point become a landmark of the community,” he said.
The city had murals in town before, in 1991, but times are different, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said. The art wasn’t cared for; some were on private buildings; they are no longer around, she said.
The project uplifts the community. The murals in Seward are beautiful, and she hopes the local effort grows, she said.
“It makes you proud,” she said.
The Soldotna Rotary Club joined with the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Mueller said. Partners also are the Kenai and Kenai River Rotary Club, he said.
Ryland said brainstorming ideas for her painting was a collaborative process.
She saw the community’s prominent fixtures — the Russian Orthodox church, Mount Iliamna and Mount Redoubt, oil platforms — and she asked her family and friends: What is this community about?
Now that she is beginning to feel welcome in the community, she knows what it’s about, she said.
“It’s about diversity,” she said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.