At the age of 20, Brianna Allen set off to Latvia to study painting and immerse herself in the culture.
At the National Latvian Academy of Art in Riga, Latvia, she quickly discovered the vast differences between American and Latvian teaching approaches to art, from the language barrier to the class structure.
Used to American drawing classes, where models might pose for 20 minutes before switching to another pose, Allen had to learn to think inside the box. Models in Latvian classes would stay in one pose three times a week for six weeks, requiring Allen to focus for longer periods of time.
Andy Sjodin first felt the pull toward drawing when he was in the fourth grade.
“I remember sitting at the coffee table with a Looney Tunes character coloring book and drawing the cartoons,” he said.
While his mother recognized his natural bend, his father took a more pragmatic approach, steering his son toward what he viewed as a more practical career path.
Sjodin took art classes throughout junior and senior high school, dabbling in a variety of mediums. Even after winning awards from the junior high art department, he approached his creativity as a hobby, not allowing himself to consider it on a deeper level.
For six years, Vida Bunchim has been delighting locals with a taste of Thailand. From her start in a mobile kitchen on the Homer Spit, to a popular restaurant out East End Road, she just expanded her business and opened a second Vida’s Thai Restaurant in downtown Homer.
Bunchim takes a lot of pride in providing fresh, home-cooked food and an ever-expanding menu. Her most popular dish to date has been Pad Thai, but her latest creation — the Vida Loca — is a chicken satay in a tortilla wrap filled with vegetables and a peanut sauce.
Born and raised in Bangkok,Vida’s father was a professional chef and her entire family loved to cook. Bunchim grew up mesmerized by her parents at work in the family kitchen. All of her recipes are family recipes that use fresh ingredients from the Homer Farmer’s Market and local grocery stores.
Four years ago, while traveling together in Great Britain and riding the trams and trolleys, 14-year-old Alex Knudtson told his mother, Sally Oberstein, that he wanted to start a trolley business in Homer. The idea was to provide locals and visitors with a tour of Homer.
Eager to support her son’s entrepreneurial spirit, Sally told Alex that if he could find a trolley in Homer, she would help him get a business going.
“Just days after returning home, Alex drove me up a side road to a dirt driveway, to a 1996 replica of a San Francisco trolley,” Sally said.
Local resident Willie Flyum had shipped the trolley to Homer from California.
When Bob Bornt moved to Homer last June, he was immediately impressed with how open and sincere people were with him.
“Everyone I met was available, communicative, looked into my eyes and said hello,” he said. “I felt a sense of community right away.”
Taken by this friendliness and desire to help others, Bornt has been eager to share his work as a clinical psychotherapist who specializes in trauma triage.
“I respect all living things and I have an intrinsic belief that plants, people and animals are all one living system,” Bornt said. “We have to be very attentive to that in order to be healthy. When there are disruptions to this living system, we end up with things like violence and addictive behaviors.”
Bornt practices a mode of psychotherapy that promotes individual and family productivity through mindful self-direction of personal well-being. His work is deeply influenced by that of Ron Kurtz, who created the Hakomi method of mind-body psychotherapy. Bornt describes his own therapeutic style as being holistic, with a preference for non-violence.
A couple creating a rescue center on their property out East End Road for retired racehorses and greyhounds, has a connection with Texan Rick Bristow, who produces nutritious candy that is popular with all animals — including humans. He regularly sends them boxes of the creamy peppermints, called Ray’s Magic Mints. They are named after the couple’s first rescued, retired race horse, Ray’s Storm,
Maureen McKenzie, Ph.D. and Jeff Taggart are currently caring for Ray’s Storm, as well as two retired racing greyhounds named DC’s Domino and Atascocita Villa.
The income from the sale of mints goes to support the numerous adoption programs for both retired race horses and greyhounds. These healthy candies are made from an original recipe using organic and wild-crafted cane sugar, coconut oil, beet crystals for color, peppermint oil, and AuroraGreen, made by McKenzie’s company, Denali BioTechnologies, from Alaska dandelions, she explained.
Imagine the television shows “Storage Wars” meets “American Pickers” meets “Pawn Stars” meets “Alaska Frontier” — and you might just get an idea of what Homeric (pronounced Home Eric) Traders is all about.
Owners Ken Sprague and Nickie Knight market their small business as buying, selling and trading the “Alaska way.”
Twice a month, Sprague makes the journey to Anchorage, where he attends estate auctions, online auctions, storage unit auctions and government liquidations, bidding on the entire contents of rooms and storage units.
“We can’t pick and choose the items we want, we have to take the entire estate sale,” Sprague said.
The couple bids on things that catch their interest — and that they know is of some value. And they say they wind up donating or discarding 80-90 percent of what they buy — keeping only quality items to bring to Homer to sell.
Amy Woodruff sees travel as a way to shed fear about the world.
“If you’re in a world you’ve built by yourself, it’s easy to become complacent and self-validating and stay the same,” she said. “When you travel, you have to open yourself up to everything good and bad, and you realize it’s almost always good; even the bad has some good in it.”
Woodruff has explored Africa, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Morocco, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rico and Mexico. She dreams of visiting Israel, Iceland, Nepal and India, but for the next 27 months, she will live in Ecuador as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Woodruff first explored Ecuador when she was 10 years old. Now, at 24, she returns to live and work.
When applying to the Peace Corps, volunteers can suggest three regions they would like to be placed. In the end, however, the Corps assigns individuals based on their abilities and experiences, and how those relate to project needs in various countries. It wasn’t until she got her acceptance letter in the mail that Woodruff found out she would be returning to Ecuador.
“I was thrilled to find out I was heading back to a place I visited when I was so young,” she said.
Every year, Homer youth take to the high school’s Mariner Theatre stage, delighting audiences with performances of everything from dancing and singing to gymnastics and hula hooping.
This Homer Council on the Arts annual showcase of youth performance artists is “Jubilee.” Now in its 27th year, the celebration of youth talent also acts as a fundraiser for the Council’s Youth Summer Fine Arts Scholarship fund.
This year, more than 50 kids auditioned in front of judges who looked for poise and comfort on the stage, length of piece, variety offered for the show, age-appropriateness, suitability for a family audience and preparation.
Participating youth — ranging in age from 7 to 17 — will perform some 20 separate acts. And, for the first time, students from Seldovia, as well as a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan, will also take part in the performance.
Watching Kevin Bell teach toddlers how to skate was a bit unnerving in the beginning. Not generally known for his calm, nurturing approach, Bell barked out instructions like a drill sergeant.
But the kids loved him. He showed them respect — and they gave it back. He held high expectations for them, and they rose to the occasion. Kevin Bell was the kind of coach who made you work hard, and then burst at the seams to tell you how proud he was of you. His passion for both skating and coaching were hard to miss.
So was his zest for life.
Bell and his wife, Mary, moved to Homer in 1984, where he began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a deckhand/cook on the research vessel Tiglax in 1987. In 1995, he became the ship’s captain. By that time, Bell had already started Homer’s youth hockey program, and the Homer Hockey Association he helped establish had two seasons of hockey under its belt.
Kevin was instrumental in turning used boards from Anchorage into Homer’s first ice rink, and spent countless hours shoveling snow off the outdoor rink.