The Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center will host a grand opening reception for its new Penni Anne Cross art show and sale this Saturday at 6 p.m.
Cross was a member of the Crow Native American Indian tribe, and many of her portraits illustrate various aspects of Indigenous culture.
She was born in 1939 in Washington state, and learned portrait-style painting from her mother. Cross then began her formal artistic education in 1968. She died in 2016.
Robert Favretto, owner of the Great Alaska Car Company in Kenai, wanted to showcase Cross’ art after he recovered it from the late artist’s house last summer.
Favretto went into business with Cross’ former partner, Mike Grossman, in 1993. In 1996 Favretto and Grossman flew to Anchorage, drove to Kenai and bought a car dealership. Favretto met Cross through his business partner.
“She was quiet,” Favretto said. “She was a very private person, almost a recluse.”
Grossman and Cross stayed in touch for years, even after Grossman returned to the Lower 48 according to Favretto, and were close until her passing. Last summer Grossman called Favretto and asked him to sell Cross’ house up north in Willow.
Upon entering Cross’ house, Favretto found multiple portraits.
“Mike said there was another box,” Favretto said — which was actually a 40-foot connex steel container outside — among “the grass and the trees” outside her property.
Inside he found more: there was art “from the front to the back of the connex, floor to ceiling wall to wall, that had been stored … over a 40-year period.”
Favretto salvaged what he could over the four months he sorted through Cross’ portraits, and asked the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center if they would be interested in displaying it.
“I thought it would be an awesome way to let the public see the breadth of her work,” he said.
The Hearth Eatery will cater Saturday’s reception, and beer and wine will be available for purchase. Admission and dining are both free.
The art show and sale will continue through May 20 at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center, and all the proceeds will go toward supporting the chamber of commerce and other local charities.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.