The framing of Mt. View as an arts immersion district — as unlikely a scenario as that is to some — got a jump start a week ago as two of four new sculpture installations were launched.
’52 Faces of Mt. View’ is a project of artists Erin Pollock and Steph Kese. Following their successful ‘367 lbs. of Wax’ exhibit at MTS Gallery in Summer 2009 — where they displayed wax faces — the pair proposed an installation of permanent face casts to be made from the faces of Mt. View residents.
Their process was a year-long odyssey of frustration, learning, experimentation and eventual triumph. Seeing the finished product, and hearing bits and pieces about the project as it developed, I wondered what the future holds for them. Will they be willing to take on something similar, ever again?
The piece is fantastic at doing what it’s supposed to do. It is an interesting focal point from a distance, especially at twilight, and it beckons for close inspection and then doesn’t disappoint. May it become a well-loved community institution and shine brightly forever.
A small crowd begins to gather for the unveiling — Dec. 4th at the corner of Mt. View Dr., Commercial Dr. and Taylor St.
The installation is effectively set at the back of a large circular low concrete wall, providing a nice place to stand and contemplate the faces.
Artists Pollock and Kese arrive at the ceremony and are greeted by Bruce Farnsworth.
Bruce [the founder of the Trailer Art Center and coordinator of the Mt View street art project] gives a short, lively talk about ’52 Faces’. He begins by thanking advocates and neighborhood boosters. Here he is pointing down the street to the MTS Gallery. “In case you’re not aware, one of the best art galleries in Anchorage is right here in Mt. View.”
Before the unveiling, some of the people whose faces are part of the piece begin to gather in the circle. The girl in the pink jacket looks behind the curtains for a sneak preview.
The curtains are peeled off one by one. The crowd reacts intensely.
Fully uncovered, a couple minutes are given for the piece to be feted by the people and its impact to sink in, and then…
…the faces are illuminated, and the crowd kind of goes crazy, shouting and whistling and cheering.
For the next few minutes, people move in for a closer look, entering and exiting the viewing circle and furiously shooting photos and videos with cameras and cell phones. People whose faces appear in the work are photographed near their faces.
The detail on the faces is incredible… so much character and presence… amazing!
Leaving the site, I could instantly understand what a powerful statement was made and how integral this piece is to Mt. View, placed at a prominent corner and entrance to the main part of the neighborhood.
The audience hung around for awhile looking at the faces, then moved over to the Boys and Girls Club/Community Center a couple blocks away for a celebratory dinner. I left to celebrate elsewhere.
The next day, with much less fanfare, the second of the four installations appeared. This is an about 18 ft. tall metal sculpture that is a flower, with the petals made of bicycles. Cindy Shake is the artist. It is in the plaza outside Credit Union 1 at the northeast corner of Mt. View Dr. and Bragaw St.
I really like this sculpture for its whimsy and pluck-ishness, and because Mt. View is a bicycle oriented neighborhood as much as any other place in Anchorage. Timely and joyous.
CU1 opened their new Mt. View branch as scheduled on June 7th. When I went by on the way home there were people in the lobby, workers at desks and teller windows and cars in the drive thru lanes. In a way it looked like it had been there for a long time; in another way I thought, wow!… I never expected to see this here!
A short ways down the block, in the old Sadler Bldg. at Mt. View Dr. and Klevin St. the Alaska State Council on the Arts opened their new office.
It is really great to have both CU1 and ASCA in the neighborhood.
Last year’s Street Fair [Aug. 8, 2009] was an overwhelming success, thanks to a great volunteer planning committee and help from sponsors. This year, a larger venue and an earlier summer date. Quite a task to plan and execute an event this large — should pay off in great experiences for all participants.
Artists Steph Kese and Erin Pollock are looking for Mt. Viewers who will consent to being immortalized on a public art piece.
The pair produced the acclaimed 367 lbs. of wax exhibit at MTS Gallery last July. This latest project will be a permanent installation, one of five new pieces selected last fall, for various Mt. View locations.
I checked out the duplex under construction at the corner of No. Bunn St. and Peterkin Ave. today. There is a sign on the side noting it has been funded by the United States Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I’m not sure if Cook Inlet Housing Authority is behind this or not? It doesn’t resemble their others so much. This one definitely takes good advantage of its setting, with large corner picture windows looking at a territorial view of the Chugach Mountains. Nice to see this investment during hard times.
Scene last fall from Mt. View Communiy Gardens, north end of the neighborhood at McPhee Ave. I learned at Monday’s Community Council meeting that a program called RAIS [Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services], run by Catholic Social Services is working with refugee immigrants from various nations at these gardens and they are tied in with farmer’s markets to sell the results. RAIS announced their intention to expand the gardens at the McPhee location, doubling their footprint and the Council passed a resolution in support of these plans. I could picture a lot of unused and under-used land in Mt. View and surrounding areas being converted to agricultural uses in the future — it’s kind of intriguing, isn’t it?
The library project is moving right along. As 2009 wraps up, the exterior of the building is nearly complete, and the interior is well underway. I don’t know the official schedule but from the looks of it I’d say to expect a Spring opening.
This summer the new conservative mayor, Dan Sullivan was sworn in. Predictably, he proposed massive cuts to social programs, and cut municipal subsidies of arts and cultural programs and institutions, including the municipal library system. There was a rumor that there would only be enough money to keep the new Mt. View branch open one day a week!
There’s been considerable discussion about how to improve that situation. The Anchorage Library Foundation, chaired by local writer and former Government Hill Community Council officer Charles Wohlforth, has been collecting donations and conducting studies to find out how local libraries are used. Some have pointed out that Anchorage under-funds its libraries, compared to similarly-sized U.S. cities even though the library remains a well-used, well-loved community asset.
A change in leadership of the municipal Assembly looks positive for both libraries and Mt. View. The new Assembly Chair is Patrick Flynn, Assemblymember representing Mt. View, Government Hill and Downtown. The Vice Chair is Mike Gutierrez, who was the Mt. View Weed and Seed Coordinatior before being elected to the Assembly. Both are good friends of Mt. View. One of Flynn’s first moves was to restore $50,000 in funding for the libraries that Sullivan had cut. Sullivan then line-item vetoed the appropriation, but Flynn managed to find the votes to override that action as well. I hope Flynn will cut the ribbon, when the Mt. View branch opens.
It has been awhile since I’ve written about Mt. View here! I’ve had an event-filled summer including travelling for a whole month. I reconnected with some old friends from the 1980s, and really didn’t think about Mt. View most of the time. Still, there’s a lot going on — so will try, in a lame/half-assed way to tell…
Street Fair. A really ambitious, volunteer-fueled family fun event was pulled off on an intermittently sunny Saturday afternoon August 8th. Months of intensive planning sessions by local stakeholders and businesses, including Credit Union 1, the Anchorage Community Land Trust and many others resulted in an action-packed day. It was very well-attended [jammed, really] and showcased Mt. View’s diversity. Hope it’s the first of what will be an annual festivity. [More photos.]
MTS Gallery and Trailer Art Center. Mt. View’s expanding arts immersion facility soldiered on this summer with some truly groundbreaking works — including the critically acclaimed ‘367 lbs. of wax‘ by Steph Kese and Erin Pollock; a Bunnell St. Arts Center-curated group invitational show on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill; and a moody, well-crafted performance piece where we bid farewell to performance art producer Ruby Kennell [hoping, as always with straying friends for her eventual safe return to Alaska]. The current exhibit, Le Roman du Lievre: Marginalia, a creation of James Riordan [with a little help from his friends] opened Sept. 18th. A rotating exhibit of student artwork from Anchorage schools was launched in the lobby space right behind the MTS Gallery. Meanwhile, Trailer Art Center is exploring possibilities for a more modest expansion of its facility and programs, maybe involving moving to a different location [but still in Mt. View], while continuing to scheme with its funders, backers and members about how to build the center they really want. MTS Gallery is located at 3142 Mt. View Dr., open Sat. and Sun. noon to 4:00 and Wed. 5:00–8:00 PM.
Clark Middle School. The contractors doubled down and finished the gleaming new school in time for the beginning of the school year last month. The 7th and 8th graders in the school’s attendance district have been distributed amongst four other Anchorage middle schools for two years while the old school was completely demolished and the new one built on the same site at the SW corner of Mt. View Dr. and Bragaw St. No word yet whether or not the ghost moved into the new school.
Mt. View Branch Library. The new library with attached community meeting room is under construction at the corner of the school site. The building was built as a library in 1967, replacing a former branch library nearby but was closed in 1987 by former Anchorage mayor Tom Fink. New Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan is of a similar mindset to Fink, and so the library system is again on hard times — so it’s looking like when the new Mt. View branch opens it will be staffed by one single paid employee and operate very limited hours. Well, I hope the librarian still enjoys the work, and the library will turn into a well-loved neighborhood destination and resource.
Credit Union 1 branch. On the opposite [NE] corner of Bragaw St. and Mt. View Dr. construction continues on Credit Union 1’s Mt. View location. Underground utility and foundation work are complete and we expect to see the building coming up very soon.
Demolition and vacancy. Teardowns continue along Mt. View Dr. and intermittently within the residential part of the neighborhood. There is more vacant commercial property here than at any time in the last few decades. Many of the buildings still extant are marginally occupied. A wholesale reinvention of the commercial strip seems less likely than ever. In the industrial district in the SW part of Mt. View, vacancy rates are creeping back up. The newly finished Glenn Square Mall is only about 1/3 full, its prospects not looking well.
Crime and punishment. A new web-based crime map of Anchorage shows major police calls grouped by type and and pinned to a map with summary info. I was delighted the other day when I looked at this and it showed zero activity in Mt. View [however temporarily]. Naturally, there’s still a great deal of misinformation out there about the level of crime in Mt. View compared to other parts of Anchorage, as a casual web search will reveal.
Community gardens. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to these in the past, but I have noted they are really popular and well-utilized. They’re located in the back of the neighborhood, north of McPhee Ave. There’s a fascinating third world ambience there, with individual plots fenced off with rough branches, construction fencing, wire and twine, visqueen, scrap lumber, bed springs, oven racks, etc. The gardeners get a lot of use of the plants, even harvesting the stalks of lettuce gone to seed. There are three large new community garden plots near the SE corner of Bragaw and the Glenn Highway, built as part of the interchange project. I’ll bet those will be full next year.
Highway interchange project. Work is nearly complete on the $30 million state funded reconstruction of the corner of Bragaw Street and the Glenn Highway. A lingering issue of funding for surveillance cameras in the pedestrian tunnel was finally solved. The traffic lanes have been open for a year, but landscaping work continued this summer. Some residents have said that the artwork component didn’t meet expectations, but all in all it has enhanced the entrance into Mt. View, especially in terms of pedestrian safety.
Cook Inlet Housing Authority. CIHA continues its housing projects neighborhood-wide. They have also purchased a property at the SE corner of Mt. View Dr. and Park St., across from their $10 million residential-commercial building and demolished an abandoned gas station on the site. I am guessing they are planning another multifamily dwelling of some sort on this lot. It is a beautiful site with a territorial view [as the real estate people say] of the Chugach mountains. Last November, I emailed a series of questions to Carol Gore, CEO of CIHA and I want to publish her answers here — however, she’s been reluctant to respond. Since I have been intensely critical at times of CIHA’s efforts over the years, she probably wants to avoid controversy. Too bad! She has said some really nice words about Trailer Art Center’s drive to build an arts center in Mt. View. I hope she will reconsider at some point!
Mt. View Community Council. At the most recent meeting the current slate of four C.C. officers were elected for another one year term. It is President Don Crandall’s third [or fourth? I can’t recall] year-long term. Crandall has a nurturing, concensus-building style. The meetings the last few months haven’t been as well-attended as in past years. That’s a good news-bad news scenario — the bad part is people are apathetic. The good aspect may be that, since the C.C. is much of the time a sounding board for problems and controversy, maybe the neighborhood is relatively trouble free these days? I kidded with Crandall that the C.C. has ‘jumped the shark’. The C.C. meets the second Monday of each month at 7:00 PM in the basement of the Mt. View Community Center at 315 Price St.
Beach Boys. There has been a bowling alley in Mt. View for many years, hidden in a low-lying property backed up to the north side of the Glenn Highway and accessed from Park St. via Mt. View Dr. The bowling alley had been on hard times in recent years, but experienced a little bump a couple years ago when some bowling leagues returned to play there after the closure of the nearest competing bowling alley in Muldoon. This summer, a new group of owners made quite a splash by holding an unannounced Beach Boys concert in the bowling alley parking lot Aug. 31st. The Beach Boys also played the State Fair that week.
I’m going to be writing a lot here about the Highway to Highway project in upcoming months. I think this project represents the biggest current threat to life as we know it in Anchorage. More on this soon.