The gallery at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council featured the exhibit "Woven Migrations," in July, with fiber art pieces by five artists.
Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council staff, from left to right, Marni Ricklemann, Kathleen Light and Anita Maxwell.
Story last updated at 11/28/2012 - 3:16 pm
As someone who sifts through hundreds of emails a week from towns throughout Southeast Alaska, I have always been impressed with how much is constantly going on in Ketchikan. Apparently, small town life doesn't necessarily mean simple or behind the times.
"I have the best job in town, without a doubt," said Kathleen Light, the executive director of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council. Light is one of the three employees at the KAAHC, along with Anita Maxwell, the operations manager, and Marni Rickelmann, the program director.
"We all help each other do our various duties," Light said. "We're very fluid. Basically, I'm trying to make sure we have enough money to do everything, Marni's spending it, and Anita organizes."
The council hosts monthly gallery openings, artist development workshops, performances and events like an annual Halloween party, the Blueberry Arts Festival juried art show, the Winter Arts Faire and the Gigglefeet Dance Festival.
"It started as an arts guild to promote and assist arts in Ketchikan," Light said. "It provided a unifying entity to help people create art. It's an umbrella organization. If anyone needs any help than we'll provide it if we can. That's the idea of the Arts Council from the beginning."
Light is an oboe player, and had been the manager of an orchestra in Michigan before moving to Ketchikan in 2007. She said she was satisfied in her position there, but was interested in integrating art forms with other types of artists besides musicians.
Light described her move to Ketchikan as "extraordinary." She said the community immediately stepped up to help her adjust. Ricklemann, who moved to the town this past summer agreed.
"It's been a very welcoming community, and made the transition very easy - especially for someone who's never been to this area at all," Ricklemann said.
Light said the highlight of her job has been to see the magnitude of unexpected creativity in the Ketchikan community.
"It's everywhere," she said. "We're continuously delighted by regular people being artists."
Ricklemann gave an example. The KAAHC was in the process of hosting a monthly art exhibit.
"The plumber happens to be a wonderful painter," Ricklemann said.
Light added that a fisherman directs the choir, and a copy machine repairman is a brilliant photographer.
"Regular people here are creative. That's the best part of the job," Light said.
One of the things the KAAHC does to help collaborate and promote artists is to host a website called "Ketchikan Art Lives Here." The website is free for artists of all mediums, and allows them space to create a profile and display examples of their work. A browser can search by art genre and find all the photographers, for example, who are listed on the website.
"It's an opportunity for the arts community to market itself as a group," Light said. The website is linked to the various city websites. "It's a way for people looking for artists to figure out who's in town. It also (serves) to figure out if you want to move to town, figure out what's here."
The artists' website and monthly gallery exhibits are part of a bigger mission. The KAAHC not only helps present artists' work, but to assist them in their process of advancing in their medium and becoming more marketable. According to Light, the gallery exhibits, which draw between 120 to 350 people for every opening, help artists learn how to present their work. Though the first consideration for the exhibits is art quality, the KAAHC also makes a concerted effort to help emerging artists.
"So a young or new artist that's growing and needing this experience to get better," Light said, can have their go of some lime light at an exhibit. "For two years in a row we've had photographers in shows that have grown significantly."
She's seen them mature in how they prepare for a show, frame their art and how they present their pieces.
"The whole gamut," Light said.
The KAAHC hosts community classes that continue this mission, by not just introducing interested residents to a particular art medium through instruction, but by helping them actually become an artist. The classes include how to create websites, and how to create profiles on the artist website Etsy, classes for photographers on processing their images, creating resumes, building portfolios, grant writing and marketing. Essentially, the classes focus on how an artist can become successful.
"They need to understand that," Light said.
Another thing the KAAHC does is accept public input.
"Artists come to us and say, 'Boy it would be helpful if...,'" Light said, and the council responds by assisting however they can.
Light said that at the end of some of the classes the staff helps show the completed work to local galleries.
"They can actually then get their pieces into the galleries," she said. "People have come to us and asked for a way to help them learn these things."
The list the KAAHC assists with keeps going.
"The other thing that the council is doing is that we get to administer a public arts process," Light said. "Whenever there's money for public arts in Ketchikan, we get to administer that."
She cited the One Percent for Art state statute: "If you build a public building with state funds, 1 percent of the state funds must be dedicated to the arts."
"The Commercial Passenger Vessel (Excise) tax can be used to create artwork for the visitors," Light said.
She cited the new Ketchikan Public Library as a beneficiary of the art tax. The KAAHC has been at work to install permanent art in the new library's location.
"We get new artwork in Ketchikan," Light said. "The council gets to administer it. Thanks to the City of Ketchikan, we're getting more and more of those opportunities."
Gratitude must extend both ways. The city gets the obvious bonus of classes, exhibits, events and assistance to local artists. There's even a city bus painted by local resident Ray Troll. The KAAHC may even be contributing to resident recruitment. That means more buildings, more money and more art.
The KAAHC is a member-based non-profit organization that has been providing arts experiences and opportunities since 1953. Their mission, according to their website, is "To create and promote opportunities for all community members to experience the arts." The list of opportunities is large.
Amanda Compton is the staff writer for the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.