As part of statewide protests by an ad-hoc group of artists and arts supporters against a veto by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of $2.8 million to the Alaska State Council on the Arts, about 10 people on Tuesday afternoon in Homer draped in black a sculpture by artist Sean Derry in front of the Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College, University of Alaska Anchorage.
In an action reminiscent of the more playful shrouding of public buildings by the artist Christo, protesters covered Derry’s sculpture of a table and chairs in black cloth and then wrapped it with orange twine. The group held signs by the sculpture supporting the state arts council, public radio and state services for the needy. They also laid down on the sidewalk around the art. Joined by several more people, the group walked up Pioneer Avenue to WKFL Park in Homer, where they held signs in front of some women who draped their heads in black cloth.
Artist and teacher Asia Freeman, executive director of Bunnell Street Arts Center, said except for its location, the protest was not associated with the Kachemak Bay Campus or sanctioned by university staff. The group chose the site because Derry’s sculpture was commissioned as a 1% for the arts public art project administered by the Alaska State Council on the Arts. The college also has several other public art works commissioned as part of construction and remodeling of old or new buildings, including a sculpture by Homer artist Brad Hughes. Derry was raised in Homer and now lives in Pennsylvania.
“Although I have taught for UAA for 20 years and I am gravely concerned about its future, as well as the future of arts and culture and many other services in Alaska, I am going to proceed as an independent, unsanctioned action that is not part of KBC,” she said in an email.
Other art interventions planned or held from Tuesday to Thursday, July 9-11 included the draping of art work on Tuesday at the Museum of the North, Fairbanks, and at locations of public art in Anchorage at C Street and Tudor Road, the state courthouse downtown and at the UAA Alaska Airlines Center.
“The action is attempting to convey a sense of loss — the imagining of a state (Alaska) without art,” the ad-hoc group wrote in a press release. “The group hopes to highlight the relevance of art as an economic driver, the role it plays in shaping the state’s cultural identity and its overall contribution to the quality of life in Alaska.”
The group said the immediate impact of cuts to the Alaska State Council on the Arts would be the loss of jobs and about $2.2 million in revenue to the state. The actual state contribution to ASCA is $700,000, used to leverage grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation and other agencies.
“Local effects will be the loss of programs supporting local arts organizations, which in turn fuel businesses and industries such as tourism in the community, as well as impacting local artists who practice as small businesses,” the press release said.
“Funding to art in the state has been cut not because of its excess but because of its power,” said artist Sheryl Maree Reily in the press release.