At the top of a winding, tree-lined gravel road above the Sterling Highway lies a hidden community treasure.
The Norman Lowell Gallery, located between Homer and Anchor Point, hosted an invitational gathering for local business owners and community leaders April 29 in advance of last week’s official opening-of-doors for the season. During the gathering, curator Barnabas Firth led those in attendance through the gallery and told the story of Norman Lowell, the artist, the facility, foundation, and works of art he created throughout his lifetime. Lowell, 96, and his wife, Libby, still reside on their homestead property in the log home they built for their family in the 1980s, according to the gallery’s website.
Established by Lowell in 2000, the 10,000-square-foot gallery is now under the purview of the Norman Lowell Art Gallery Foundation, along with the Lowell family homestead and a collection of art and historical artifacts that was curated by Lowell. The Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable organization, was established in 2016 by Lowell and his wife to preserve the gallery and its collection for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
Through Saturday’s gathering, Firth said he hoped to strengthen connections between the Foundation and local businesses like B&Bs and hotels and community leaders including the Homer Chamber of Commerce and the Homer City Council. The Foundation wants to foster an understanding in the community of their purpose in preserving and promoting Alaskan culture, and become more involved within the peninsula community, Firth said.
By spreading the word about what the Foundation’s properties have to offer, they also hope to increase traffic to the gallery, he said. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery might receive 10,000 visitors in one summer. That number was decreased by half in the 2022 season, according to Firth.
The Foundation, and by extension the gallery and other properties, is funded solely by artwork sales and donations from individuals. Besides the preservation of Lowell’s works, the Foundation also plans in the future to restore and preserve the homestead buildings and gardens and continue sharing through Lowell’s story and guided tours of the property the challenges and triumphs of Alaska’s homesteading era, according to Firth.
The Norman Lowell Art Gallery is one of the largest single-artist galleries in the country, according to information provided by the Foundation. Designed by Lowell, who also oversaw its construction, the gallery consists of five rooms that house more than 200 paintings.
Walk through the entrance and travel through time in Lowell’s artistic journey — the first room shows some of his earliest works in a variety of mediums including oils and acrylics. The second room shows more of his work done in pastels and watercolors. The third room includes works completed in 2017, the final year of his career before he lost his sight completely. The fourth and fifth rooms house the gallery’s Permanent Collection, which includes 15 large-form works more than 20 square feet in size.
The works displayed in the gallery form a “collection of Alaska unlike anything else” and demonstrates Lowell’s “excitement over the beauty of Alaska,” Firth told those gathered on Saturday.
The Norman Lowell Gallery is open to the public Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until mid-September. Firth encourages all, locals and otherwise, to visit the gallery and enjoy this unique art experience on the Kenai Peninsula. For more information, visit normanlowellgallery.org or call 907-299-7338.