The Year in KTOO News: Juneau arts and culture

Erick Heimbigner keeps an eye on his son, 4-year-old Emmett Heimbigner, as he practices riding his bike at the Archipelago Lot along Juneau’s Seawalk on Oct. 21, 2021. Juneau Docks and Harbors officials want to rename the lot “Peratrovich Plaza” after the Alaska civil rights leader and the subject of the mural behind them. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The year 2021 was a great one for public art in Juneau. In February, signs went up around town that tell people much more than just where they are physically located. Each one tells an oral history about the place as part of a project called Juneau Voices. Ten stories are narrated by people from Dzantik’i Héeni, whose family histories go back generations.

Over the summer, a Juneau coffee shop got a makeover from Lingít artists, including a mural of a misty seascape by Michaela Sheit.een Goade, who is well-known for her work illustrating a Google Doodle and winning the Caldecott Medal for illustrating the book “We Are Water Protectors.” At the counter there’s an aluminum carving by Robert Mills that tells the story of the Fog Woman. Mills is also responsible for the 20-foot-long formline canoe called Yaadachóon installed this year along the seawalk at Overstreet Park.

Interior of Sacred Grounds coffee shop showing a mural by Michaela Goade and aluminum carving by Robert Mills. (Photo by Lyndsey Brollini / KTOO)

A mural of civil rights icon Elizabeth Peratrovich now adorns the side of the downtown library and parking garage. It’s the work of Crystal Worl. The city is considering changing the name of the whole area around the mural to Peratrovich Plaza. 

Crystal Worl’s mural is several stories tall. One of her brother’s works is miniscule by comparison, but also made a huge splash this year. Rico Lanáat’ Worl’s designs caught the eye of an art director at the U.S. Postal Service, who encouraged Worl to submit artwork for a postage stamp. Eighteen million stamps featuring Worl’s depiction of the raven and the box of daylight story were released to the public in July. A ceremony in Juneau celebrated the first stamp ever designed by a Lingít artist and the importance of the design and its story to the people who live in Lingít Aaní today.

Tlingit artist Kaasteen Jill Meserve in the process of making a pickle medallion that will be featured in the show Reservation Dogs. (Photo courtesy of Jill Meserve)
Lingít artist Kaasteen Jill Meserve in the process of making a pickle medallion that will be featured in the show Reservation Dogs. (Photo courtesy of Jill Meserve)

In September, a local artist’s beadwork was featured on the hit Native comedy show Reservation Dogs. Kaasteen Jill Meserve was commissioned by the show to make two phallic medallions for an episode. One’s a pickle and the other is a microphone. Meserve is a huge fan of the show and said everyone should watch it. “In not just, like you know, in our Native communities but like for Hollywood and what it means to be really truly represented in media and on screens. It’s very monumental,” she said.

One of Juneau’s newest restaurants, Black Moon Koven, opened up this spring very elusively and mostly through word of mouth. Its dark, moody ambiance has drawn a cult following. It’s a big risk to open a restaurant during the pandemic, but owner Aims Villanueva-Alf’s gut told her to just do it. Last year Villanueva-Alf had closed her wildly popular Auke Bay space GonZo after she was assaulted there.

“I feel like Black Moon was my way of healing through my trauma and continually is a place where it could be, and seems super dark to people, but it actually brought a lot of life and light into my own darkness,” she said.

Aims Villanueva-Alf works in her restaurant Black Moon Koven on August 5, 2021 in Juneau, Alaska. (Phyto by Lyndsey Brollini/KTOO)

KTOO is looking back at 2021 through the stories that had the widest and strongest impact on the community. Read stories about justice in Juneau, the cruise industry’s return to Juneau, or the year in state government.

Jennifer Pemberton

Managing Editor, KTOO

I bring stories from the community into the KTOO newsroom so that all of our reporting matters. I want to hear my community’s struggles and its wins reflected in our coverage. Does our reporting reflect your experience in Juneau?

Like what you just read? KTOO news stories are member supported. Support your community news source today. Donate to KTOO.

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