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A full day of culture at POW Art Extravaganza
A woman peruses artwork in the Totem Trail Cafe at the first annual Prince of Wales Art Exhibit and Extravaganza in Kasaan on Sept. 23. Staff photos by Alaina Bartel

Daily News Staff Writer

Just by looking at the people returning from the first annual Prince of Wales Art Exhibit and Extravaganza on Sept. 23, you could tell they had an adventurous eight hours in Kasaan.  

On the Allen Marine Tours catamaran headed back to Hollis and then Ketchikan, passengers could be seen relaxing in their seats, refilling their complimentary coffee and grabbing a bite to eat from the snack bar — even though their tummies were filled an hour before with an almost artistic spread of food from the Totem Trail Cafe in Kasaan.

In the cafe

The cafe hosted the event, and made enough mini-reuben sliders and Swedish meatballs to feed 150 people, but ran out at 2:30 p.m. — just an hour and a half after the event began.

When the spread of hot crab and artichoke dip and smoked salmon dip was restocked at 3:15 p.m., it too soon disappeared as nearly 400 people from around the island, including 50 from Ketchikan, filtered into the doors.

“It was a really great turnout for a first year event,” Heidi Young, a volunteer at the event, said. “I thought this venue was going to be large enough but it might be better suited for a larger venue next year.”

Plates in hand, guests shuffled carefully throughout the building, as to not knock over the delicate 170 pieces of artwork by 89 artists from POW that filled the room.

The display contained a plethora of unique work — jewelry, photography, paintings, sculptures and woodworking. There were also quilts hanging by a rope near the ceiling, above woven baskets sitting on tables below them.

Not only was there inanimate artwork, but a few live displays of art as well. The Stihl Heads and The Girl from the North Country, both musical groups from POW, took turns performing with their unique mix of rock, folk and country music.

The only time their music halted was when Maria Lineker took to the middle of the room to perform Kata —movements in Japanese martial arts.

“Kata is multiple moves, from multiple attackers,” Lineker said after her performance. “It’s not necessarily a dance, although I did this to music just for the attention because people don’t usually watch somebody who’s not saying anything.”

Lineker has been practicing Kata for 30 years as an instructor, and said she enjoys the repetitiveness of the art and the discipline it takes to do it.

“It’s helped me in a lot of areas,” she explained. “Sixteen years ago, I had a C2 and C3 fracture (in the spine) so it’s helped me considerably mentally and physically.”  

In the carving shed

While many watched Lineker intently and continued perusing the artwork after her performance, there was one piece they might have missed if they didn’t stop at the carving shed across the street from the Totem Trail Cafe.

The cedar building wasn’t hard to miss and was only a short distance away from the hustle-and-bustle of the jam-packed exhibit.

Sitting on a wooden bench, damp from the drizzling, overcast day, was Barry Brucker of South Thorne Bay, people-watching as a small crowd meandered towards the carving shed.

In his hand, he had a small piece of his own artwork — a small, hollowed deer horn with a cigarette lodged in it. He explained holding a cigarette with his bare hands would ruin his mustache, teeth and fingers.

“I’m just sitting here enjoying it,” he said, taking a puff of his cigarette. “It’s a beautiful festival.”

Located in the shed, which had wood shavings as flooring, was carver Stormy Hamar — who explained where his name came from before describing the gigantic totem pole in front of him.

“I was born on a stormy night in September, 50 years ago in Ketchikan — that’s where the nearest hospital was,” Hamar said, before delving into the history behind the piece.

In the summer of 2015, Hamar and a group of people began working on the design for the pole, and sought help from the community to decide on a theme.

Hamar and others surveyed residents in the remote village to find out what was important to the nearly 70 people that inhibit it, when they decided on the theme — the past, present and future of Kasaan.

The 600-year-old, 100-foot piece of wood is now intricately carved and tells a story — one acknowledging Kasaan’s history, while using their past to fuel their future.

Towards the middle of the pole is a woman who is “pregnant with the knowledge of the past,” according to Hamar, and towards the top — a man with large ears.

“We intentionally put some really large ears on this figure here,” Hamar said, pointing to the pole. “The intent was to show that we’re trying to listen now, so that we do the right things for the future.”

Crabs can also be found towards the top of the pole — highlighting the village’s dependence on natural resources, and close by — a baby surrounded by salmon eggs.

“(We’re) trying to portray sustainability,” he said, gesturing towards the eggs. “All through the design runs this rope that kind of ties past, present and future together.”

Hamar said the raising of the pole outside of the Totem Trail Cafe, which he believes will be in December, and the celebration of the pole will likely take place at different times. The pole will not be painted, and it does not yet have a name.

“I’m kind of hoping that a name will just emerge, but it is possible that the Tribal Council will decide on a name,” he said.

“I’m more hoping that (visitors will) look at it and just kind of wonder and maybe even make up a few things,” Hamar continued. “Sometimes you can invent great stuff in your mind if someone doesn’t fill it with stuff that’s already there.”

The winners

The totem pole was one of many items that guests were encouraged to vote on for Best of Show.

They were given four tickets to vote with, for one $500 prize, and three $250 honorable mention prizes.

Attendees were to write the name of the piece of artwork they were voting for on a ticket and anonymously place the tickets in the four plastic jugs available for voting in front of them.

The winner of the $500 award was Tom Wargi of Craig for his whale carving. The three $250 prize winners were Stephanie Brock of Coffman for her bumble bee painting; Michael Kain of Hollis for his wooden chairs; and Jon Rowan of Klawock for his horn and copper spoon.

The art exhibit took five hours to set up the day before with around 15 people helping, according to Cat Klinkert, a volunteer and artist at the event.

Much of the artwork was for sale, and guests were able to purchase the work directly from the artists.

Cash donations for the event, which was organized by Gretchen Klein, were provided by First Bank and the Klein family, with help from donations accepted at the registration desk at the event.

Klein said she is looking for sponsor support for next year’s second annual Prince of Wales Art Exhibit and Extravaganza.

She said several volunteers made the event possible, including Frederick Otilius K'yuuhlgaansii Olsen, who greeted guests from the Allen Marine boat upon arrival and was their tour guide throughout the day.