PCL Construction employees install panels onto the front of the State Library, Archives, and Museums building in October. Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Náay I'waans, the oldest surviving example of traditional northern Haida architecture in the United States, is shown in the final stages of restoration in September. Photo by Bethany Goodrich
One of the Git Hoan dancers performs with the group during the dedication celebration for the Walter Soboleff Building May 15 in Juneau. The Tsimshian dance group, headed by David A. Boxley, will be featured at this year's Celebration. Mary Catharine Martin / CCW
Story last updated at 1/6/2016 - 3:45 pm
2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year in the arts. Here’s a look at a few of the big events planned in Southeast, in chronological order.
• World premiere of “Our Voices Will be Heard” by Vera Starbard, Jan. 15
Perseverance Theater will open the world premiere of “Our Voices Will be Heard” in Juneau on Jan. 15. Playwright Vera Starbard, who is of Tlingit and Dena’ina Athabascan heritage, was born in Craig and now lives in Anchorage, where she is the editor of First Alaskans Magazine. Starbard said her autobiographical play tells “a story of what happens when the secrets of a family’s sexual abuse come into the light, following the journey of a mother of an abused daughter.” The production, set in a 19th century Tlingit village, features an all-Native cast.
Starbard’s play began as a short story she wrote at 18. After taking part in the Alaska Native Playwright Project through the Alaska Native Heritage Center, she began to turn the story into a script, shifting the narrative perspective from herself to her mother. The play was later accepted into a workshop through Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles.
The cast includes Tlingit actors Erin Tripp, DeAndre Howard King, Leetta Gray and Frank Katasse of Juneau; Yup’ik storyteller and actor Jack Dalton from Anchorage; Ojibway/Turtle Clan Oneida actor Dylan Carusona from New York City; Cherokee actor Robert Vestal and Iroquois actress Erika Stone from Los Angeles; and Aleut actress Jane Lind from Montana.
The creative team includes Juneau artist Rico Worl and Sitka composer Ed Littlefield. and the director is Larissa FastHorse, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Lakota Nation.
The production runs from Jan. 15 through Feb. 7 at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau and will be performed in Hoonah and Anchorage in February; details on the Hoonah showings TBA. See next week’s issue for more on this premiere.
• Governor’s Awards for the Arts awards ceremony, Jan. 28
This event provides a great opportunity to not only celebrate our fellow Alaskans for their significant contributions to the arts and humanities of our state, but also to gain a more thorough understanding of what those contributions have entailed. This year, three of the eight honorees hail from Juneau: Steve Henrikson, Alaska State Museum Curator of Collections, who will receive a Governor’s Award for the Humanities; Nancy DeCherney, executive director of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, who will receive an Arts Advocacy Award; and Vicki Soboleff, leader of the dance group Ldakát Naax Satí Yátx’i (All Nations Children) who will receive the Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts and Languages.
If the words “awards ceremony” bring to mind long boring speeches and frozen smiles -- this isn’t that kind of event. Held in Juneau for the past two years, previous ceremonies have interspersed brief comments by the honorees (and the governor) with live performances by spoken word artists, musicians and storytellers from around the state, which helps keep the event lively and allows for an even greater array of artistic exposure and appreciation.
This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28, and is hosted by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation. Tickets can be purchased at:http://bit.ly/GovernorsAwardsVIP2016
• Alaskan premiere of John Luther Adams’ composition ‘Inuksuit’ as part of Juneau Jazz & Classics 30th anniversary, May 6-21
This year, Juneau Jazz & Classics will celebrate 30 years of festivals with a special performance of Pulitzer Prize- winning composer John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit,” a percussion piece scored for anywhere from 9 to 99 players and designed to be performed outdoors, where ambient noise becomes part of the music. The piece has never been performed in Alaska, the place where it was written and Adams’ home for more than 25 years.
In an interview conducted by Steven Ross Smith in June 2009, Adams said that the piece reflects environmental concerns not in a political way but in a more spiritual sense. Adams said: “For years, my work has celebrated and in some way resonated with the place in which I live, that country that is my home and the landscape of my soul, but I don’t want to be the Alaska composer; I don’t want to be a regionalist. ... I have felt the music leading me toward something that is broader than the work I’ve done in the past, leading me in a sense away from the specificity in Alaska to larger concerns about the whole planet. This piece is haunted by that, specifically by the image of the melting of the polar ice and the rising of the seas and the image behind Inuksuit -- from which this piece derives its title -- those stone sentinels of the Arctic that the Inuit have constructed for centuries and translated literally. It means something like, ‘to act in the capacity of the human‚‘ and so it strikes me that those figures up there on the tundra are in a sense symbols of human vulnerability and impermanence and that image haunts the whole work, not in a programmatic way, but somehow you might say, in a spiritual sense.”
Juneau Jazz & Classics’ executive director Linda Rosenthal and her husband, violinist Paul Rosenthal, first met the composer back in the 1970s, when they lived in Fairbanks and worked with Gordon Wright, music director of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra. In a previous Capital City Weekly interview, Rosenthal said she was thrilled to be able to bring the piece to Juneau.
Described as “as much an event as it is a performance,” the piece will be performed by musicians dispersed over a large outdoor area at the University of Alaska Southeast; listeners may choose to be seated or to wander around the performance area during the concert. Featured musicians will include Third Coast Percussion, one of this year’s Jazz & Classics artists. The festival runs May 6-21 this year in Juneau.
Read more at johnlutheradams.net/inuksuit/ and http://www.jazzandclassics.org/
• Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center and Bald Eagle Observatory opening, May 14 in Klukwan
The Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center in Klukwan, which will offer Native artists space to work, and display art and at.oow (clan-owned artifacts), including incredible century-old carvings Klukwan fought to repatriate, is set to open May 14. Part of the facility will also be a replica of a Chilkat Long House, and a home to artifacts Klukwan repatriated through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Later, the center plans to offer eagle viewing through a boardwalk, as well as information about the birds.
Lani Hotch, executive director of the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center, said one of the best things about the project is that it won’t only be a museum, but “an actual, living, cultural center.”
“To have these (at.oow) on display in the place of their origin, that is going to be powerful. All other places that have these types of things, most of the time you’ll see it in big cities, so far removed from their place of origin that they lose some of their impact. They lose their power,” she said. “But here they’re going to be displayed in their place of origin. There is a lot of significance in that. And to have them available once again for use by the clans, for ceremonial use — that really does a lot to perpetuate the culture, to strengthen the cultural identity of our people, and builds (Klukwan) up both socially and economically.”
People have talked about building a heritage center in Klukwan since territorial days, Hotch said. The idea came up again in the 1970s, when at.oow were taken from Klukwan. Those discussions have finally become reality.
The details of the May 14 opening aren’t yet set, but it will include ceremony, speeches, and will be open to the public, Hotch said.
• SLAM opening, May 15
The long anticipated opening of the new State Library Archives and Museum, scheduled for May 15, comes after a multi-year construction project and a much longer push by area residents -- including the late Bea Shepard -- to create a facility worthy of our region’s rich and unique art, culture and history. Though only visible from the outside at this point, the new building is clearly on track to fulfill this goal.
The 118,000-square foot structure will house the combined collections and operations of the State Library Archives and Museum. The new vault offers three times the space for the state’s collections and the exhibit floor is two-and-a-half times as large as the former museum.
In December, the SLAM team -- headed by Director Linda Thibodeau and Deputy Director Bob Banghart -- posted some intriguing photos of the building’s interior, including preliminary work on a giant map of Alaska on the floor of the atrium, and colorful glass pillars created by artist Walter Gordinier for the Alaska State Library’s Richard Foster Reading Room. And in October, curator of collections Steve Henrikson presented a talk during the Tlingit Clan Conference at Centennial Hall that included descriptions of the new exhibit area. Henrikson and his team have been traveling around the state to get input from Alaskans about the artifacts in the museum’s collection, to ensure that the stories told in the building are as accurate and representative of the state’s people and history as possible. Henrikson’s work is indicative of the passion with which the SLAM team has devoted themselves to making this facility as good as it can be. In a previous Empire interview conducted in 2013, Henrikson said: “I’ve been here for 23 years and from day one I’ve been collecting artifacts for this day ... I didn’t know when it was going to happen. I figured that it would be somebody else that came after me that would be the one that would get to decide... To have the opportunity to do this is just fantastic.”
According to Bob Banghart, the current opening date is May 15, with an official ribbon cutting taking place June 6. (Banghart added: “I stress that these dates are our best guess based on the current schedule.”)
May can’t come soon enough.
For more visit http://museums.alaska.gov/lam/slam.html
• Celebration 2016, June 8-11
Celebration has been held in Juneau every two years since 1982, but this year’s event promises to be one of the best yet. For one thing, the Walter Soboleff Building is now complete, offering an additional venue for gatherings including the Juried Art Show exhibit, which will offer a range of new categories this year such as a youth show.
For another, this year’s featured dance group is the Git-Hoan (People of the Salmon) Dancers, founded by David A. Boxley, a Tsimshian artist originally from Metlakatla. Boxley, who is immersed in multiple aspects of cultural revitalization, created one of three major art pieces for the Soboleff Building, the clan house front that stands in the building’s foyer, with his son, David R. Boxley. As carvers, the Boxleys incorporate their art into their dance performances. During a performance held at Marine Park during the Soboleff Building’s grand opening in May, audience members watched this spectacular combination in action: some dancers wore raven masks with beaks that opened and shut in percussive unison, and another wore a double layered killer whale mask that opened to reveal a second mask underneath, to name just two. When Boxley received a National Artist Fellowship in 2015, he said the award money would be used to carve and produce new masks for his group for use in Celebration.
The group has previously performed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in celebration of a Boxley pole -- his 70th -- that was permanently installed at the museum in 2012.
Celebration 2016, hosted by Sealaska Heritage Institute, runs from June 8-11 and the theme is Haa Shuká: Weaving Traditional Knowledge into our Future.
For more information visit http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/institute/celebration/
• Shakespeare’s First Folio exhibit, July 26 - Aug 24
The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum was chosen to be Alaska’s host site for a nationwide traveling exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio called “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.” The exhibit, organized by The Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, will allow Alaskans to view the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays and one of the most valuable printed books in the world.
The First Folio was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, by two fellow actors and includes 36 of his plays. The edition that will be traveling to Juneau is one of only 233 known copies in the world; nationwide, a total of 18 First Folios will be on display during the tour, with only six traveling at any one time. During the exhibit, the rare book will be opened to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech, according to the Folger.
The exhibit will include numerous programs and events at the museum -- and, by happy coincidence, will occur just as Juneau’s own “Shakespeare-enamored” theater company, Theatre in the Rough, begins celebrating its 25th anniversary season. The troupe, which took a break this year and will be back this fall, has yet to unveil its plans but updates should be posted to the website, www.theatreintherough.org.
Dates for the First Folio exhibit are July 26 to Aug. 24. The SLAM building will be the exhibit’s only Alaska stop.
For details, see http://www.folger.edu/
• Xúnaa Shuká Hít opening, late August, Glacier Bay National Park
More than two centuries ago, an advancing glacier forced the Huna people to leave their homes in Glacier Bay National Park. Now, through a partnership with the National Park Service, they are building a home once more.
The Huna Tribal House, whose Tlingit name roughly means “Huna Ancestors’ House,” “will be the first permanent clan house in Glacier Bay since Tlingit villages were destroyed by an advancing glacier over 250 years ago,” according to information on the National Park Service’s website. “A long awaited dream, it will be a gathering place where tribal members can reconnect with their treasured homeland through ceremonies, workshops, camps, tribal meetings and other events.”
The 2,500-foot clan house, currently under construction, will have an open area with a central fire pit for visitors to gather.
The Hoonah Indian Association and the National Park Service have been working with carvers, clan leaders, architects, and others “to design a building that reflects traditional styles but meets the needs of contemporary tribal members as well as park visitors,” the site says.
To read about the carvers working on the project, check out http://www.capitalcityweekly.com/stories/040214/new_1201109688.shtml. Also, keep an eye out for an update on the project in the coming month.
• Náay I’waans (Whale House) rededication celebration, Sept. 3, Kasaan
Náay I’waans, also known as the Whale House or Chief Son-i-hat’s House, in Kasaan is the oldest surviving example of traditional Haida architecture in the United States. For the past three years, a collaborative group led by the Organized Village of Kasaan and the Kasaan Haida Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit established by Kavilco Inc., have been working on the building’s restoration. In early September, the structure will be officially rededicated.
Originally built by Chief Son-i-hat in the 1880s, the building was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, but had again fallen into disrepair. The current restoration has included work on the building as well as the site’s totem poles, with a focus on keeping as much of the original structure and carvings as possible. In August, CCW contributor Bethany Goodrich interviewed two of the carvers working on the restoration of Náay I’waans, Eric Hamar and Harley Bell-Holter. Asked about the significance of the structure, Hamar said: “Historically it is significant as far as the people who lived there, why it was built in the first place. It’s also kind of the historical center, not necessarily the physical center, but the historical and emotional center of the village. It’s the biggest item of pride that we have and so it’s very important for that reason.”
Once complete, the building will be used as a place to visit and tour as well as serve as a facility for community events.
Read Goodrich’s interview here: http://www.capitalcityweekly.com/stories/090215/ae_1257558548.shtml and find out more about the project here: www.kasaan.org
What else is happening this year? Let us know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org