Anchorage Museum “Re-Indigenizes” Downtown Mural

Aug 9, 2022 | Alaska Native, Media & Arts, News, Nonprofits

City Hall mural

A whitewashed surface covers the former history timeline on the side of the RIM Architects building, adjacent to Anchorage City Hall, in preparation for a new mural.

ALASKA BUSINESS

A mural overlooking the parking lot of Anchorage city hall is being reworked with a new design representing the Indigenous history of the place in more than a single corner.

Inclusivity at Heart

The east wall of the G Street building occupied by RIM Architects is being redecorated with a new mural presented by the Anchorage Museum, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Alaska Pacific University (APU), Roadmap for a Vital and Safe Anchorage, the building’s owners Barbara and Larry Cash, and SALT. The project includes a second mural being painted at The Kobuk coffee and gift shop, formerly the Kimball’s Dry Goods store at 5th Avenue and E Street.

“The heart of these projects is inclusivity,” says James Temte, a muralist and project manager from APU. “Anchorage is the largest Native village in Alaska, and this is a celebration of different Alaska Native groups.”

The previous mural depicted the Anchorage skyline circa 1990 and a collage of images representing a timeline of the city’s history. Faces of Dena’ina people appeared in the upper right corner, and below them were Captain James Cook and William H. Seward. A collection of military and civilian airplanes represented Anchorage’s position as an “Air Crossroads,” and a section of wall was left unfinished for images of the 2000s.

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Tlingit, Athabaskan, Yup’ik, and Filipino artist Crystal Worl is designing the mural near city hall to pay homage to several different Alaska Native tribes, highlighting Anchorage as a gathering place. “There’s a great diversity of tribes that live and work and coexist in Anchorage today,” she says, “so I wanted to create a piece that feels significant to a lot of people in Anchorage.”

Worl recently completed a 25-foot-tall, 60-foot-wide mural made of cloth panels depicting civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich on the side of the public library in Juneau.

Bringing Color to Downtown

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The former mural overlooking the parking lot of Anchorage city hall.

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The Kobuk mural is being painted by Yup’ik and Inupiaq artist Drew Michael. “I wanted to bring a lot of color to downtown, and I think that influenced this particular piece,” he says. “Part of the story of the Native people of Alaska is thinking about how everything has energy. Looking into the eyes of a mask, you can see how people lived.”

Michael’s mural is inspired by traditional Yup’ik masks but with Iñupiaq influences. It is being presented in collaboration with the Anchorage Museum, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and The Kobuk.

A statement from the Anchorage Museum says both murals help to reimagine public spaces and challenge the ways art and history have been presented on the traditional homelands of Alaska Native peoples by “re-indigenizing downtown.” That is, by centering the Indigenous perspective. 

Production on both murals begins early August with public viewing events planned in the fall. The Anchorage Museum is posting progress updates on social media.

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