new sculpture installations appear

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.

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‘the iconagones’ and ‘girls girls girls’ at MTS

Stephen Gray and Lisa Gray explore innocence, adolescent anxiety and the fate of pop culture sirens in this exhibit of painterly digital work.  Now through Sept. 11th at MTS Gallery, 3142 Mt. View Dr., Sat. and Sun. noon to 4; Wed. and Thurs. 5 to 8 pm.

"Miss 100% Pure", by Lisa Gray. Jayne Mansfield, polishing her super-clean image.

"Amelia Earhart", by Lisa Gray.

"Moonshine Mary", by Stephen Gray.

MTS Gallery is in its fifth season bringing fine art, performance and special events and its parent organization, Trailer Art Center is a key part of the revitalization and arts/cultural initiatives of the Mt. View neighborhood.

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greetings from another alternate universe

Road sign for Mt. View Dr. — this one in Homer, AK.  It’s up in the foothills on the west side, fairly upscale.  Not too far away from another street called Fairview.

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dance party

Video of breakdance exhibition, set up by Mt. View activist Mao Tosi, part of a recent event at new Midtown Kaladi coffee shop.

summer photos

Own a little piece of old Mt. View -- if you dare!

Old and new houses on N. Klevin St.

From the "You'd Never Believe You're In Mt. View" department -- Davis Park trail.

Mayday tree, reaching for the stars.

Apple trees in bloom on N. Flower St.

Alley between Klevin and Flower Streets.

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credit union 1, ASCA open

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.

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street fair june 26th!

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.

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‘backyard, alaska’ at MTS

Scenes from a multimedia installation by Michael Walsh.  Featuring Alaskan vernacular artifacts; films with historic and environmental images; and soundscapes.  Visit MTS Gallery Sat. and Sun. noon to 4:00; Wed. and Thurs. 5:00 to 8:00 pm — through June 11th.  3142 Mt.View Dr.

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park lanes, 1961-2010

Bowling was never really my game.  I could roll a strike once in awhile, but usually was lucky to score in triple digits.  So it was easy to forget that there was a full service bowling alley in easy walking distance.  Still, I was disappointed to learn it was closing in April after 49 years in Mt. View.

The building sat in a little hole between the low bluff wedged against six lanes of the Glenn Highway.  The only announcement of its presence within the neighborhood was a tall sign at the corner of Mt. View Dr. and Park St.

Businesses come and go all the time — sometimes even ones that have managed to hang on for two generations or more.  But it seems like kind of a shame to lose a place that’s so much fun.

A friend of mine wondered why Brunswick and other suppliers haven’t been more proactive helping to make sure bowling was still turning up in pop culture.  It’s been a long dozen or more years since The Big Liebowski.

The parking lot was about half full and there were lots of people inside on a sunny spring Saturday.  In the smaller chamber with nine lanes [there are 24 in the main area] a child’s birthday party was being held, and between frames some of the twentysomething adults in the group popped into the lounge next door for shots.

I came back another time when there were only a handful of customers.  I wondered how many people had sat in these seats over the decades, and about everything that had ever happened here.  Bowling can sometimes get ugly [just ask Lesil McGuire] — maybe because it’s one of those sports, like frisbee golf that people do while they’re drinking.

I’ve been wrong about these feelings before but this place gave me the impression it has been mostly the scene of happy interactions.

One Saturday morning there was a youth league there, filling all of the lanes, warming up to compete for a $13,000 first prize.  There are plenty of young teenagers in this town who can throw strikes at will and make it all look easy.

The hand painted mural across the back of lanes 1-24 is a treasure of the building, a whimsical treatment featuring bowling alley elements played out in a typical Alaskan outdoor setting by happy bears and other animals.  The lounge the bears are sitting in is called Clementine’s.

The machines behind the end of the lanes that reset the pins and return the balls were made by AMF, a company that during the 1970s was dominating the sports equipment supply chain.

The machines still work well but also need frequent intervention, when a ball or pin gets stuck.

I can picture this room during the pipeline construction era of the 1970s, jam packed with people boogieing down to funk and disco.

Bartender mixes a couple drinks –she’s been working at this bar since Ronald Reagan’s first term.

League bowler with metal wrist stabilizer guard.

High scores of the month are shown on this charming 1960s board with movable lettering.

Maybe the modern world has too many high tech distractions to make a bowling alley as much of a draw as it used to be?  Spenard’s Center Bowl, five or six miles away and built in 1957 survives, for now.

I drank a beer with a friend on one of the last few days the lounge was open.  The place was mostly darkened and only a couple other people were there.

There are rumors a self storage building will be built on the site. 

[Complete photo collection at my Flickr page.]

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art zine F covers gerstenfeld, street art

The May 2010 issue of F has two excellent articles about Mt. View.

A feature article about local octogenarian and self-described “Mt. View relic” Sol Gerstenfeld.  There’s a little bit about me in the piece, as well — I gave them the story tip.  She does a pretty good job breaking down Sol’s persona, without going too deeply into his philosophy and various endeavors and advocacy work. 

Sol can be a tough case, but he’s also a valuable asset in our neighborhood.  When the neighbors were discussing whether or not they wanted to be annexed by Anchorage in 1954, Sol was probably in the room and can still recall what was said.  He doesn’t focus on the past, though, like a lot of people his age — because it tends to steal energy from current projects.

F also has a story about the Mt. View street art project — how it was funded and planned; the selection process; a bit about the selected artists and installations; and thoughts on the likely impact after the pieces are installed in four or five locations along the length of Mt. View Dr.

Despite ten years of solid work on revitalization and renewal, Mt. View still has a serious image problem [partially deserved; mostly not].  The transformative effects the presence of artists and art making can have are beginning to show.

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