Mural artists depict heart of Kenai Peninsula

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of the Soldotna Rotary Club - A community mural in Seward depicts a whale on the side of a building.

Photo courtesy of the Soldotna Rotary Club - A community mural in Seward depicts a whale on the side of a building.

What imagery represents the Kenai Peninsula?
To some, it could be the Kenai River, its turquoise waters luring people, bears, moose, gulls and salmon alike.
It could be the history of the place — the Native Dena’ina villages, the onion dome of a Russian Orthodox Church, or the fish canneries, gold-mining operations and fox farms that provided some of the first economic opportunities in the area.
It could be all the iterations of fishing the peninsula’s waters provide, from angling for a king in the Kenai to flipping for reds in the Russian River, fly-fishing a quiet lake or trolling for halibut in Cook Inlet.
Perhaps it’s the hand-hewn log cabins of the homesteaders, or the drilling infrastructure of the oil industry that brought the biggest boom of population. Or maybe it’s nothing to do with people, instead showing the Kenai Fjords, Cook Inlet beaches and the rivers, mountains and other topography in between.
That’s up to artists to imagine, and the community to select, in the Paint the Kenai community mural project. This joint endeavor between the Soldotna Rotary Club and the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center invites artists to paint a mural on a 24-by-48-inch panel that will be displayed in a summer art show at the visitors center. People who come to view the panels will vote on their favorites, and the panels will be winnowed down from all entries to semifinalists, to finalists and, finally, one selected winning panel. All the panels will be auctioned off in an event next fall to raise money for the project.
The artist of the selected design will receive $3,500, and will work with a project manager and assisting artists to translate the design into a 12-by-24-foot mural somewhere in the community.
As with the mural design, the community will select the location by suggesting places and then voting on the winning spot. It’s open to the entire Kenai Peninsula. Any Kenai Peninsula resident of any age can enter, from Homer to Hope, Seward to Kenai and all points in between. Mural imagery can be of anywhere, just like the mural could end up anywhere.
That’s part of the reason Heather Floyd, of Kenai, decided to submit a mural — to see what everyone comes up with.
“I just think it’s a really cool idea to tie the community together and think about what is a community here? And it can mean so many different things to so many different people,” she said. “I think the more people it gets involved the more interesting the end show is going to be. Whatever is put forth is going to create even more of a dialogue within our community.”
Floyd is primarily a three-dimensional artist who works primarily with metal, but decided to push herself into the realm of two-dimensional painting for Paint the Kenai.
“I get a lot of my inspiration from nature so I’m starting with the (Kenai) river. That’s what and why people came here and ending up living here,” she said. “I think that’s what, in my eye, still connects people and creates the community.”
Breena Walters, of Soldotna, is focusing her imagery on fishing. She approaches art as more of a hobby, but sees the project as a way to connect with a wide variety of artists, from professionals to recreational artists like herself, to first-timers and even kids.
“I just really wanted to get involved and meet other people who are into painting and into art,” Walters said. “I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s a really cool, collaborative thing with the community, which is awesome. I like the idea of everybody getting to choose a mural for the community.”
Fanny Ryland, of Kenai, said that several of her co-workers at Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union are submitting murals, each with a different take on the concept. Some are approaching it with realistic imagery depicting an actual scene on the Kenai. Others, like Ryland, are being more figurative, wrapping representations of several elements and seasons on the Kenai into one image.
“It gives you lots of ideas and it’s pretty open on the subject,” Ryland said.
That openness has been the challenge for Paul Tornow, of Soldotna. He’s got an extensive artistic background — a bachelor of fine arts degree and the experience of being an exhibiting artist on the central peninsula. As a fishing guide in the summer, he’s getting back into being a producing artist in the winter.
“I’ve been moving all around and finally moved back down here and wanted to be involved again in the community and the arts, so that’s why I felt the need to pick up a panel to get back in touch with the Kenai and the arts back here,” Tornow said.
But settling on a design proved difficult. So instead of just deciding what life on the Kenai means to him, he developed a set of questions and started interviewing other residents.
“I’ve started interviewing residents and asking people what their thoughts are and came up with the themes that seem to be coming up again and again that might be the important things to the community,” he said.
Some recurring themes were big ones, like historic aspects of the community and representations of industry. Others were smaller, like the Peninsula Oilers baseball team and their field in Kenai.
“I think the Kenai means a lot of different things to everyone, it seems like it was kind of hard to come to one conclusion of what it is,” he said.
Ultimately, that diversity is what will make the project as interesting to view as it is to participate in.

Pen the Kenai

To make the project even more diverse, organizers have opened it to representations of the written form, as well, in a Pen the Kenai companion to the Paint the Kenai project.
Kenai Peninsula residents of any age and any community are invited to submit 500 words on the theme of “life on the Kenai.” Again, it could take a theme of history or current events, be specific or broad, personal or general. And whatever form those 500 words take is up to the writer, with essay, poetry, prose or other approaches welcome.
All entries will be available to view at the summer art show along with the panels. Selected entries will be published in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper, and be included in a book of Paint the Kenai and Pen the Kenai submissions to commemorate the project. One entry will be selected to be placed on permanent display along with the selected mural.

Entry guidelines

Paint the Kenai
• Open to current Kenai Peninsula residents of all ages.
• There is a $35 submission fee for Paint the Kenai entries, and artists may submit as many entries as they choose.
• Artists are asked to submit a short, one-paragraph biography to be displayed with their work(s) at the Paint the Kenai, Pen the Kenai summer art show.
• Schools and clubs are encouraged to hold their own contests to bring the best ideas and designs to the forefront.
• Mural panels are due April 15 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.
• Visit www.kenaichamber.org and click on the “Forms” tab for Paint the Kenai submission forms and information.

Pen the Kenai

• Open to current Kenai Peninsula residents of all ages.
• There is no entry fee.
• Entries may be in the style of the writer’s choosing — essay, poetry, narrative, etc. — but may not exceed 500 words.
• Only one entry per writer is allowed.
• Schools and clubs are encouraged to hold their own contests to bring the best ideas and designs to the forefront.
• Artists are asked to submit a short, one-paragraph biography to be displayed with their entry at the Paint the Kenai, Pen the Kenai summer art show.
• Entries must be submitted by email to redoubtreporter@alaska.net by April 15. Use Pen the Kenai in the subject line.
• For more information on Pen the Kenai, contact Jenny Neyman at redoubtreporter@alaska.net or 394-6397.

To stay in touch with the Paint the Kenai and Pen the Kenai projects, visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/PaintTheKenai/info.

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Posted by on Feb 6th, 2013 and filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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