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By JOHN LEE McLAUGHLIN
Daily News Staff Writer
Just getting to the high school art festival can be somewhat of a hectic venture, with arranging travel, assembling students and their varied artwork, and preparing a substitute teacher for her nearly weeklong absence being just a few trip chores that annually make time sparse in the workday hustle of Louise Kern.
A new string of standardized state testing this spring for school districts statewide tossed a bit of unbidden ambiguity into her schedule, but the longtime art instructor of Ketchikan High School knew that once she boarded the ferry on Tuesday, she could rightfully relax and just enjoy the annual Southeast Alaska Art Festival.
Kern hasn’t yet been disappointed in the four-day regional showing by art students and teachers, held this year in Petersburg.
“I’m flying everywhere, trying to do everything, until I get on the ferry; then I can relax and know we’re going to be fine,” she said of the final days leading up to the trip. “I’ve never been to a bad Art Fest. We almost always come back with some awards, but the award is the experience. You know, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Kern and eight students left Tuesday for Petersburg. Free to craft art with no set themes or strict categories, Kern said, each student brought original works to be judged as part of the festival festivities.
“It’s cool, but it’s awful to be the judge,” Kern noted of the students’ artistic freedom, later adding: “There are some pretty amazing kids.”
But the real experience of the festival, she said, is branching out to grasp outside perspectives, as she and the students would be performing at a limited capacity if they failed to see how other minds work in the region.
“I’m the art teacher at (Kayhi); they’re stuck with me for four years,” Kern said. “When they go to something like Art Fest or the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, they get exposed to different ways of doing things.”
“That’s important,” she said. “I like for them to know that I have ways, but they are not ‘the way.’ They are ‘a way,’ and so, to be exposed to other instructors is a wonderful thing, and then, the fact that some of these people actually make their living with their art is exciting because it’s hard for kids to understand that you can actually do that.”
To that end, Kern and the students will spend the bulk of their trip attending a series of topical art workshops presented by art instructors and professionals from throughout Southeast Alaska.
For her part, Kern will host a workshop on paper relief sculpting. Other workshops cover just about everything else, from sessions on carving halibut hooks and Tlingit spoons, special effects makeup or leather mask making to forums on exploring watercolors, jewelery making and digital photography.
“It’s, like, every day we meet, and someone presents or several people present, so everyone can see what’s going on in that person’s class: Go to a session, have lunch; go to a session, have dinner; go to a session, go home and crash,” Kern said.
On the final day, she said festivalgoers on Sunday will gather for a student art exhibit and awards ceremony, heading home Monday.
All told, Kern said, said about 100 Southeast Alaska students typically show for the festival, with an open invitation extended to not only larger school districts, but also smaller villages of the region.