Attendance has been low on the tour, which stops at about 32 galleries, public art displays and studios.
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“Now this is about two hours, and we do some hills, you don’t mind that? It’s not a bad hill, we’re just going to walk to the steeper part of town,” warned Deb Rudis, our volunteer tour guide on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in late August.
(Rudis guides Tuesdays, and classical guitarist Dan Hopson covers Sundays and Mondays).
The walk begins at the Visitor’s Information Booth near the downtown library.
On the tour with me is Cornelia Seckel, who is the publisher of Art Times, an online arts journal based near Woodstock, New York.
“I’m thrilled to see the activity that goes on here in Juneau and that’s what I’ll be writing about in Art Times online and blogging about it as well,” Seckel said.
Our first stop is Dan DeRoux’s mural, “Ancon,” on the water side of the downtown parking garage.
Then we head into the library to see Bruce Elliot’s “Transfiguration” — the stained glass that shows salmon changing into Tlingit figures.
My first new discovery is in the library’s children’s section: there’s a floor-to-ceiling painting by Jane Terzis and Dan DeRoux of a mountain meadow filled with storybook and fairy tale characters.
“Every time I look at it I see another figure,” Rudis said. “I’m like ‘oh, that’s who that is!’ You know I didn’t recognize the Cheshire Cat the first time when I was looking at it. There’s the cat that jumps over the moon,” Rudis said.
At the library’s front desk, we admire Steve Brown’s wood Bear Panel carving.
Outside, as the tour continues, I realize downtown Juneau is really dense with art: there’s Ray Peck’s metal wall sculpture depicting traditional and modern ways of fishing; the Patsy Ann sculpture on the waterfront; a mural at the Taqueria; the near life-size bronze sculpture “Hard Rock Miner” in Marine Park; and lots more.
“This is one of my favorite pieces of public art in Juneau,” said Rudis, as she directs our attention to Bill Ray Jr.’s mural on City Hall.
“It’s the Raven — the Trickster — opening the clam shell which released man, and then it’s the Tlingit representation of all the different wildlife species that are the dominant clan symbols: the bear, the frog, the eagle, the orca, and the wolf,” Rudis said.
The tour winds through town stopping at studios and galleries where we can speak with artists at work.
Seckel takes notes diligently and I ask her what her headline might be.
“It’s not just about fishing,” Seckel said. “It’s very much that story of being drawn to an area because it’s so rich in the arts, because it’s so rich in culture, and beauty, and outdoor life. So what if you have to get here by plane?”
Seckel’s been publishing the arts journal for over 30 years and has written widely about the arts.
I asked her if she noticed anything unique about the Juneau scene:
“I like seeing the indigenous culture so vibrant and apparent,” she said. “You wouldn’t see that where I am. I mean I am not too far from Woodstock, New York. People are dressed in all sorts of ways, and shops and, there’s no real indigenous anything. Or in New York City I don’t see that there’s—there’s a presentation of hundreds of different peoples.”
“Here it’s narrowed down and so it becomes much more obvious and exciting and makes me want to know more,” Seckel said.
We climb up through town, check in at the Canvas, visit the Empty Chair Memorial in Capitol Park, and admire the Old Witch Totem in the State Office Building.
This day, our art tour with Rudis ends looking at Nimbus.
“It’s kind of like an iceberg in some ways, and kind of like a glacier in some ways,” Rudis said. “You know I think it pretty much captures the feel of Alaska—it’s raw and it’s different.”
The tour isn’t a deep dive into Juneau’s art history.
Rudis says it’s a cursory introduction, a good fit for cruise ship visitors.
It’s available through September, costs $20 per person, and runs at 1 p.m. Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.
The JAHC also offers online and printed Art Walk maps for self-guided tours.
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