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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
The Main Street Gallery has quite a different vibe than it’s had for the past two months. Through November and half of December, the 30-piece traveling exhibit “Decolonizing Alaska” called the gallery home.
Now, about 200 pieces of colorful artwork from youth in Ketchikan and surrounding areas grace the gallery walls at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council for its Youth in Art Exhibit, which runs until Jan. 26.
“I’m fairly confident that we have something from every single school as well as the two homeschool programs, and Metlakatla High,” said Cameo McRoberts, the program director for the KAAHC.
The gallery has featured young artists for years in the past, but this is the first year that the exhibit is going to be featured for a full month — whereas it had only been two weeks in years prior. McRoberts said that is partly because of the dates Decolonizing Alaska was at the exhibit, as well as the amount of artwork that floods in their doors for the youth art show.
“It’s a challenge with its setbacks and rewards. You end up with a lot of artwork to put up that’s different sizes and different abilities,” McRoberts explained. “We don’t want it to be a competition, and we don’t want it to be judged and we want to give everyone a chance to see their artwork on the wall.”
The artwork ranges from preschoolers to high schoolers, and doesn’t only display young Ketchikan artists. McRoberts said there’s a 9-year-old girl from Craig who submits artwork for every open-call exhibit that she can.
There’s no requirement for the artwork, and McRoberts said they take every piece. Quite a few individual artists submitted work, but much of the artwork came from classes at several schools. Students can submit up to three pieces of art, and they can even put a price on it if they’d like to sell it.
From pottery at FastTrack and PACE Homeschool, to watercoloring at Fawn Mountain Elementary School, to portraits drawn with local artist Dave Rubin at Point Higgins Elementary School, the exhibit showcases a variety of art, in various mediums, from multiple schools. One student even created a mobile from a book.
“The student is actually, she’s a basketball player and her family is very athletic. The book is ‘Beyond Basketball.’ I think it’s kind of cool that she took this book that’s about the sports that she’s really into and did an art piece from it,” McRoberts said. “I think that’s pretty rad.”
McRoberts said the exhibit is special in a few ways for young up-and-coming artists. She said it gives them the opportunity to view their art in a gallery setting with perfect lighting, and it builds their confidence for submitting artwork — as well as gives them the feeling that what they’ve created has worth.
“I always go back to the idea — seeing your artwork hanging on a wall that’s made for artwork, can be really inspiring. If you can do it as young as possible, then it kind of helps motivate that creativity,” McRoberts said.
For the second year, Metlakatla High School teacher John Hudson Jr. has helped his students craft something special for the exhibit. Hudson teaches traditional northern Northwest Coast Native art at the school, the longest standing program in the district. His father, Jack Hudson, started the art class 45 years ago.
This year, John Hudson had 12 students submit artwork, ranging from original acrylic paintings with original designs, sculptures, traditional Northwest Coast bowls and vectorized art prints made with Adobe Illustrator.
“I think the funnest thing is that when they know the art is going to be hung in a public setting, it probably gets them putting their best effort forward,” Hudson noted. “What I really liked last year was I brought the students who submitted artwork over to look at the exhibit. I think the best part for me was actually seeing their faces when they saw their own artwork hung in a public setting and having people come by and look at it, and talk about how nice they thought it was.”
Their trip to Ketchikan last year for the exhibit included a visit with Ray Troll, who spoke to them about art, marketing and business. The students also did a bit of carving on the Pathfinder totem pole at Schoenbar Middle School, and visited the Ketchikan museums.
Hudson said he plans on bringing the students over again this year to learn even more about art — something he believes is invaluable for young people.
“The answers within artwork, there’s not a lot of right and wrong answers,” Hudson explained. “They can all be solving the same spatial problems and come up with 100 different ways to do it, but they’re all correct. It gets them all thinking in different directions and I think it’s a super valuable life skill for them, and it gives them intrinsic rewards for seeing that they can make something beautiful and can create something from nothing.”
Hudson added he commends the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council for putting on the Youth in Art Exhibit because “they do a great job with it.”
“I think that that really does inspire the students to want to continue forward,” Hudson said. “And for them to see their own work in a professional setting, it really keeps their motivation level high.”