By Laura Ditto
Part 1 in a series on APU’s involvement Indigenizing the G Street mural.
In late February, a new mural project was introduced to the public in an online meeting over Zoom. There were seventeen people present at the meeting, including the artists and coordinators who were looking for feedback to advise artistic decisions. The project is being organized by members from the Anchorage Museum, the Alaska Mural Project, Alaska Pacific University (APU), and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership (ADP).
The public art piece will be located Downtown on 645 G Street, replacing the mural that has occupied the side of an office building since 1997. The original mural, “Anchorage History,” was painted by Bob Patterson, depicting a timeline of events and changes through Alaska’s history. While the original mural accurately depicts events throughout Anchorage’s history, it fails to include the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples; this is where the new mural will serve the community.
With an Indigenous artist, Crystal Worl, the new mural will showcase a different side of Anchorage, incorporating a wider view of the village’s history. While the current project will focus on including Indigenous perspectives, the online meeting aimed to gather a variety of public opinions to find how the mural could best serve the community.
The February meeting was opened by the APU Project Manager, James Temte, giving an overview on the project. The idea was first put into motion three years ago, pre-pandemic. One of the goals of the mural is to make downtown more inclusive and amplify Indigenous identities.
Temte shared images from library archives that celebrated the identity of Anchorage, including photos of blanket tosses, dances, totem carvings, and dog sled races. Temte spoke about community, and spurred attendees to think about how public art can benefit Anchorage.
In gathering input for the mural, three key questions were asked: what are some themes that come to mind when you reflect on Anchorage’s rich Indigenous history, what are some values that we want Anchorage to be known for, and what is the feeling or energy that we want the mural to convey?
“One of the really important things that’s been really recent is just to communicate that we have this incredibly rich history, and that Anchorage is a really diverse place,” Michael Fredericks voiced as part of the project management team.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to really look at the longer history of this space,” Anchorage resident, Amanda Moser, added. “Alaska’s Indigenous people are still here and still driving change and moving things forward in Anchorage.”
Melissa Shaginoff, a cultural consultant for the project, said that the mural should reflect how varying ideas and groups can come together, and how Anchorage “can be a place for everyone.” She noted that “having more public art—more stories pulled through art that talks about that complexity and that duality—can be a way for us to teach people about who we are.”
With this opportunity to honor Anchorage’s uncelebrated history and bring new art to the community, Temte shared how this project can become a leading example in public art: “We can inspire the world. We can be a leader through what we choose to celebrate in our community and celebrate through art.”
With the input gathered from the meeting, Worl drafted ideas for Anchorage’s new art piece. The design was finished in Spring, leading towards the creation of the art piece in late Summer, which is being installed by the Seattle Mural Art Company.