PUBLISHED: 3:49 PM on Wednesday, November 29, 2006
"I don't want any ideas"
Introducing the Balance of Independence and Interdependence During First Friday Gallery Walk

Photo courtesy of The Canvas
  REACH artists Tami Birch (pictured) and Chevelle Hoagan, have helped create a "neighborhood" with their art.
This past August, I began teaching classes at the newest arts venue in town, The Canvas. Nothing could suppress my excitement when I heard about art studio coordinator and visionary Annie Geselle's plans to create a full-on community arts center. When I moved to Juneau less than a year ago, I was very surprised to find that a facility similar to the one Annie is spearheading did not already exist. How could I add to the magic under the old Copy Express sign in downtown Juneau? I have since been granted the duty to coordinate The Canvas's first ever exhibit for the gallery walk coming up December 1st. I knew this was my chance to complement the on-goings in the studio, but how could I make it work? How could I help the community see how marvelous its latest arts outlet is? The answer is Neighborhood. I can't do it alone. I need a community for the community.

"I don't want any ideas," Melanie informed me during my first day at my new job.

"Okay, that's fine, just let me know if you change your mind. What about you, Grace, how is everything go-"

"Grace doesn't want any ideas either," Melanie butted in.

Photo courtesy of The Canvas
  Chevelle Hoagan
Teaching art never fails to be a learning experience and, like most things, there are always moments where it is quite trying. Creativity is a muddled matter and as a teacher, where does one draw the line between suggesting something and leaving it up to the artist to make his/her own decisions? Melanie certainly put me in my place on day one. I know as an artist I tend to be controlling and uncompromising with my own work, so how could I tell Melanie to listen?

Neighborhood. Neighborly...according to Webster, the words mean 'a local community with characteristics that distinguish it from the areas around it, friendly'. The term neighborhood sounds exclusive yet inviting, and I was thinking that I liked the way that felt in my ears. This has since become our inspiration for our first show. I realized that 'distinguishing characteristics' means unique personal choice, so I left Melanie alone to her own discoveries with the paint and hoped later I would be invited back.

The first artists to work in The Canvas are coming by recommendation of REACH. Yes, many of these artists are disabled. Their abilities as visual artists show through their dignified work. Together we have worked to create a neighborhood together. What does a neighborhood do? It brings people together. Recently Melanie gave me a painting with: "To Sarah" painted across three quarters of the page. She created her own distinctive work alone, and now she found herself joining in the communal aspect of our artistic neighborhood by sharing her art with others.

More importantly, this new communal space is helping us to create a new facet in our

Photo courtesy of The Canvas
  REACH artist Grace Coenraad.
Juneau community-one where everyone, no matter their shoe size, favorite food, or level of art experience, can participate while making independent and interdependent decisions. The community can make its new studio at The Canvas flourish by participating-taking classes, coming to the gallery walks, spreading the word. The invitation is open so no one has to do it alone.

Creating a neighborhood in a big empty room is an open-ended idea that really gives opportunities for artists to work independently and collaboratively. A group of artists have come together to transform an ordinary room into an installation experience using cardboard boxes to make 'homes'. Artists were able to decorate homes together and/or independently. Now the boxes are arranged throughout the room just as houses are in a neighborhood.

This particular show focuses on the work we have made in the past three months. The progress students, staff, and teachers have made during this time is remarkable. Together we have learned more about art through making it together, sometimes in collaboration and other times focusing on our own work. I hope that the rest of the Juneau community can/will become more involved in the arts. This hope feels viable when I work at The Canvas. Recently I could hardly persuade Melanie to leave at the end of class!

The neighborhood standing in The Canvas studio is, at first glance, unconventional. It is multi-colored, imaginative, experimental...but the beautiful part is that it also has many comfortable similarities to a neighborhood-houses, birds, sky, and a community who made it happen.

'Outside the Box'

opening at The Canvas


4pm - 6:30pm during First Friday Gallery Walk, Dec. 1st


223 Seward Street


Innovative art, refreshments, and community


Logan Trumble, Reggie Laughlin, JoEllen Osborne, Bonnie Hawkins, Annie Eichorst, Andrea Short, Karen Wiley, Melanie Adams, Grace Coenraad, Jeff Larabee, Corrine Jackson, Annie Fitzjarrald, Tami Birch, Glen Glover, Doris Katzeek, Erin Carroll, Susie Martin, Gina Frisky, Niall Johnson, Luis Hernandez, Jeff Douglas, Chevelle Hoagan, Heather Meade, Avery Skaggs, Max Valle, Mike Godkin, Todd Wright, Mark Davis, Leroy George

Art Studio Coordinator:

Annie Geselle


Colleen James, Paul Affatato, Effie Racpotnik, Cindy Johnson, Emily Barnak, Jeannette Myers


MK McNaughton, Donna Griffin, David Thomas, Nikki Franzoni, Sarah Conarro