Part art, part history: Exhibit captures slice of life on the Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009

While those who attended the gala opening of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center's contemporary art show titled "Reflections on Alaska Statehood: The 49th at 50" would have seen a preview of the "Heritage Portrait project: Foundations of Our Future," the exhibit is now complete.

A portrait of Martha Merry, by Sam Merry, a student in the Intermediate/Advanced Painting class at KPC, and the Martha's son. The painting is framed in wood from Martha Merry's family homestead barn.

"Everything is now up and will be up through December," said Laura Forbes, the KVCC's director of programs and exhibits.

The exhibit will officially open with an informal reception today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Forbes said it is the culmination of many months' work.

"It's a project we've been working on over the course of a year, in a partnership with the Kenai Peninsula College Service Learning Program," she said.

Forbes explained this entailed working with more than 100 KPC students in art courses taught by Celia Anderson and Jayne Jones, and in communication and writing courses taught by Cheryl Siemers.

Through the exhibit, the students' intent was to tell the story of the Kenai area through the portraits, objects, stories and quotes of the people who lived here around the time of Alaska's statehood.

"It's part art exhibit, part history exhibit. The students visited with folks that have been in the central peninsula area since around the time of statehood. The art students created portraits in a variety of mediums, and the communication students gathered information and recorded sessions," Forbes said.

Snippets of these recorded sessions, and text boards with collected information, will be available in the exhibits, but many sessions are also still being transcribed, according to Forbes.

"They will remain in the archives here at KVCC for general interest and for research projects," she said.

Forbes said she hopes the exhibit will inspire not just the tourists that visit the show in summer, but also those that call the central peninsula their home year-round.

"We wanted to tell the history of the Kenai area in a way that would get people thinking about their own families and the place we live," she said.

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Simulataneous to the "Heritage Portrait project: Foundations of Our Future," exhibit opening, the KVCC will also host an opening for a student exhibit titled "AK50: Stained Glass."

The event will feature the stained glass work of students from River City Academy. Glass work and supplies were sponsored through a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Alaska Statehood.

The opening will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and offer viewing of the art, refreshments and voting for the visitors' choice and judges' choice awards.

For more information on the "Heritage Portrait project: Foundations of Our Future," call the KVCC at 283-1991, and for more information on "AK50: Stained Glass," call Dawn Edwards-Smith of the River City Academy at 714-8948.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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