For many Ketchikan residents, the annual Wearable Arts Show is the event of the year — and with only days before the show, artists and models are putting the final touches on their projects.
The show has been a First City staple for 34 years, according to Katy Posey, who is the program director for the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council that organizes the annual event.
Posey said that the show has “really been an established part of our community.”
“It was super small and it was super cool,” Posey said about the first Wearable Arts Show, which was held in the Main Street Gallery’s old location on Creek Street.
Ketchikan’s show was the first of its kind in the state, Posey told the Daily News.
“It’s the first Alaskan wearable art show,” she said. “It was before Juneau, it was before Anchorage. So we have the longest-running wearable art show, which we’re very proud of.”
The Wearable Arts Show has grown immensely over time, said Posey.
Each year, the show inspires a wide variety of models and artists to walk the runway at the Ted Ferry Civic Center, striking a pose in a range of handcrafted “wearable art.”
KAAHC information states that an acceptable entry is “unique, one-of-a-kind, made-by-hand, to be worn on the body.”
“It’s not a puppet show or a commercial costume, it’s wearable art,” Posey explained.
The show is also non-juried, meaning that there is no winning entry or prizes involved.
“This is an opportunity for artists to just explore art in a fun way,” Posey said. “They’re not thinking about selling it, they’re not thinking about whether or not it’s a business, or how to turn it into a business. This is self-expression at its best. This is the quintessential moment for artists to just be free and express themselves.
“It’s just freedom. It’s just this pure — it’s just this opportunity to create for the sake of creating,” Posey finished.
The show also provides a fun activity during the slower winter season, Posey said.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for people to dress up, have an evening out, and completely get lost in fantasy for a brief amount of time in February in Ketchikan,” Posey said. “It’s the best distraction, it’s an opportunity to just escape.
This year’s theme — “Once Upon a Time” — is also rooted in fantasy.
Competing suggestions for 2020’s theme included “At the Movies,” “Circling the Drain,” “Feed Your Soul,” “Plaid,” “Metal Heritage,” “Out Of This World,” “No Boundaries,” “Mid-life Crisis” and “Where, Oh, Wear?”
Posey said that while most artists choose to adhere to the year’s chosen theme, it’s not a requirement for participation.
Longtime participant Jackie Jones-Bailey is basing her piece on the life of a late Ketchikan resident.
“I’m doing a tribute to the Ketchikan story lady, Agnes Royer,” Jones-Bailey told the Daily News during a mandatory modeling workshop for participants on Wednesday evening at the Plaza mall.
Jones-Bailey has been participating in the Wearable Arts Show since 2003.
“I liked the idea of wearable art, and I liked the theme that year, and so I jumped right in with both feet,” she explained.
This year, she has help from Jamie Karlson, who is modeling her creation.
Karlson had her first experience modeling for the Wearable Arts Show two years ago, when she donned a “fish pirate” costume, also crafted by Jones-Bailey.
Ketchikan High School senior Caity Pearson also created a piece that doesn’t follow the theme.
Pearson, who has been accepted to the University of New England, found her inspiration from leftover college applications that she had been saving.
“I pretty much stayed up all night,” Pearson said about crafting her wearable arts piece, adding that her mother, Lisa Pearson, worked with her late into the night on New Year’s Eve to complete the project.
Kayhi freshman Abby Hancock was also putting the finishing touches on her creation at Wednesday night’s workshop.
“This is actually inspired by all the plastic in the ocean,” Hancock explained. “And it’s like a siren collecting all the plastics and creating it into a beautiful outfit.”
Carlen Williams also took inspiration from the ocean.
Williams, a four-year participant in the show, crafted a large sculpture inspired by the ocean, which she will be able to wear by attaching it to herself with straps from a chest piece.
“It’s taken at least a month or more,” Williams said about creating the piece.
Some participants choose to do group projects for the show.
Dawn Luna, Sharyl Yeisley, Sarah Martin and Gerry Baluta — with artwork done by Patty Whitesides – are collaborating to represent the four seasons.
“We’ve been planning this since last year, and collecting items and working on our vision for a long time,” explained Baluta, who will be dressed to represent spring. “So it’s this crescendo and this feverish last-minute, midnight-hour whirlwind of finishing on time, but then it’s over and it’s not really over – because we begin planning for the next one.”
“The idea you start with and the drawing that you have is never what it looks like at the end,” said Yeisley, who will be dressed as winter.
Luna, who will take to the stage as the season of summer, said she enjoys the energy of the show.
“I love the energy backstage, and just being able to see everything up close,” she said. “It’s just invigorating.”
The Wearable Arts Show will open on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. There will be 8 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, as well as an additional 2 p.m. “all-ages” matinee on Saturday.