Artists need community help to thrive

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005

Homer and Girdwood have established art communities and some believe the central Kenai Peninsula is fully capable of cultivating such a culturally conscious populace, as well.

The general feeling is that artists on the central peninsula aren't starving, but they're not rolling in cash, either. Marty Hapeman wants that to change.

Hapeman, artist and owner of Art Works gallery in Soldotna, said the area has a long way to go until there is a recognized and organized art community.

"There are enough artists per capita here to build a very strong artist community. There is a broad range of art being done here, but it seems to be done covertly," Hapeman said.

Hapeman said community involvement would be integral to fostering an art movement here.

"The artist community needs structure, a center to pull everything together. It would take small- to medium-sized business to get involved. All they would have to do is temporarily host an artist's work one time during the year," she said. "I know that if the community at large supports the idea, people would come here to be part of it which could make a difference."

Pam Mersch, local artist, said people need art. She holds the idea that artists have challenges making it in the area because the audience for new and modern art is not especially prominent.

Though the semi-retired animal technician does not use her artwork as a chief source of income, she said an artist who would rely on their talent would need a tough work ethic.

"If someone were solely living off their art, they would have to work extremely hard to make it here," Mersch said. "Artists would do best to start off by donating work to charity auctions to get their name known."

Mersch said the things people purchase the most are items that border on the art-craft line.

"What sells the best are practical things like pottery that people can use in their everyday lives," she said.

Hapeman, said one of the most important things people can do is support local arts.

"Buy original artwork. Commission a one-of-a-kind table. Listen to local performers and attend the locally produced plays and musicals," she said.

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