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PUBLISHED: 4:53 PM on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Celebrate a creative season with Sitka's Spring Festival
SITKA - Southeast Alaska is chock full of artists and musicians and Sitka is no exception. The town will throw a bash well worth attending from March 14-16.

The first ever Sitka Arti Gras, along with the Sitka Spring Festival, are two new events rolled into one energetic gathering. The weekend will showcase regional artists and musicians during the same days as the Sitka Spring Gallery Walk and the Monthly Grind.


artwork by Rebecca Poulson
  Sitka resident Rebecca Poulson will be one of the local artists with works on display during Sitka's Arti Gras Festival held March 14-16.
The weekend will include everything from a three-day art auction, which will help fund the renovation of the Sitka Maritime Museum, to possibly the longest Conga-dance line in the state.

"We are expecting a humongous turnout," said festival organizer Kathy Baker. "There will be sidewalk sales and we are closing off the streets for it."

Baker and Vern Culp, of Fisherman's Eye Gallery, and a festival organizer were planning the two festivals for some time without the other's knowledge - eventually deciding to blend the two, along with the biannual Gallery Walk.


"We're not doing it for our ego's though, it doesn't matter if one event gets more attention than the other," Baker said.

"We are doing this because Sitka needs something like this around this time of year."

Several workshops will be offered over the weekend, including writing workshops by Mary Clearman Blew; "The recipe for the blues" workshop with Gary Gouker on Harmonica and Lee Asmin on slide guitar and three spring gardening workshops. Sunday's gardening workshops will feature experienced Gardener's such as Penny Brown and Florence Welsh.

"Gouker and Asmin are two incredible musicians from Sitka," Culp said. "They will give the opportunity after their demo for anyone who wants to have a lesson. They can learn about the harmonica or slide guitar. This festival is like a gathering for artists and musicians to share their knowledge with each other and then the public is invited."


Culp's Fisherman's Eye Gallery boasts around 70 artists, 70 percent of which he estimates are local. According to Baker there are expected to be at least 50 artists contributing to the exhibition.

"You wouldn't think there are so many artists in Sitka and I'm sure there's many I've still not discovered," said Baker. "It will be even bigger next year - I have already booked the main hall instead of the exhibition room for (2009)."

The weekend boasts an event for everyone; a film fest showcasing around six Alaskan Independent filmmakers, the Saturday morning Sitka Spring Festival fun run, dances at the Moose Lodge, a Tlingit carving demonstration from the owners of the Devilfish Gallery and a songwriters round table, to name a few.


"The big deal I think is Saturday," said Baker, "Sitka will attempt to set the record for the longest Conga line in the state. And if we don't set that record this year, ... we will the next. Everyone is welcome, even if you are in a wheel chair - but dogs don't count," she laughed.

The "Pied Pipers Conga Line" will go down Lincoln St. and around the St. Michaels Russian Orthodox Church. Grace Larsen's famous fry bread will be on sale at the Crescent Harbor Shelter after the parade and conga line. Juneau magician Jeff Brown will be in attendance to make balloons and hats in the library for kids who will be leading the parade.

Sitka artist Rebecca Poulson is just one of the contributing artists for the weekends events. She publishes a calendar of wood engravings and watercolor, primarily of the wilderness and people that surround her. Her work can be seen viewed at: www.theoutercoast.com.

She also is on the board of the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, which collected boat portholes to give to artists to apply their own artistic talents to for an art show and silent auction over the weekend, in the same room (at Harrigan Centennial Hall) as the community art show.

"The ones we have so far are so cool," says Poulson. "One by Laura Kaltenstein has beaded sea creatures inhabiting it, (we) just got one - bronze, ... with a gem-like round watercolor by Lucy Phillips mounted in it. And another large bronze porthole has been transformed into a small table, with welded chain legs, it holds black sand and treasure, you can open the porthole window and play with it," she says.

It is a fundraiser for the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, and their project to rehabilitate a WWII boat shop into a maritime heritage center for the region. More information on this can be found at: www.sitkamaritime.org

"Sitka has so many artists, and a very supportive art community, yet extremely few organized art events. That is what is so exciting about Arti Gras is the gallery walk and the community art show, getting people together to share their art, talk about it, get inspired, communicate, which is what art is all about," she says.

There is no overall cost to attend the festivals, though a few of the workshops have small fees for materials. The fast ferry Fairweather is scheduled to leave Juneau on Mar. 14, at 8:00 a.m. and arrive in Sitka at 12:30 p.m., just in time to join the fun.

The Monthly Grind is almost always sold out and tickets so its best to purchase them in advance. Visit the festival websites: www.sitkaspringfestival.com or www.artigras.info to download a combined festivals events schedule.

"Our local galleries are pretty darn good," Baker says. "So Juneau people can come get music and even shop for fine art pieces you will not find anywhere else."


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