If Ketchikan, Alaska were subtropical, the weather person on the tellie with perfect hair and teeth would report a storm and give it the respect of a name: Hurricane Melba . But in Ketchikan, 55°21’N of the equator, our storms get no such respect. That’s okay though; we have our own names for days like that. We mildly refer to such storms as weather, or more affectionately crap weather. “Well, another day of crap weather,” we observe gently, but inside carry with us a sort of superiority about the quality of our weather as compared to weather in the south. Then we slog on our x-tratuf boots, smelly from years of weather, and carry on. But there’s something else we do to rally: we do art. We simply must.
What isn’t commonly known is that Ketchikan records the number of purple houses per capita higher than the national average. And when I say purple, I mean to include all shades of lavender with or without yellow undertones. Perhaps not considered high art, the purple house is but one version of “culture and anarchy.” It’s an expression. The owner, buckets of carefully chosen Madison’s 38B6 “Provocative Purple” at his feet, brandishes his paintbrush skyward and yells to the gods: to hell with this crap weather.
Ketchikan is a strange love affair, and it’s commonly understood that love inspires art. While the love begins for some with the pathos of the dark and gray, eventually summer meanders up the Narrows and new praises are sung to the beloved. For such is her beauty. In fine weather (gales of less than 30mph), Ketchikan folk are out like ravens collecting sea glass and all kinds of shiny things. These found things become art: jewelry, mosaic, garden embellishments. These works are often displayed at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council gallery on Main Street—the white building trimmed out in 38B6.
In Ketchikan, we keep our finest artists in garages, attics, and basements. And we have many very fine garages and even more accomplished artists. And they tend to be an extremely unassuming and generous lot. And since x-tratufs smell pretty much the same on everyone, you can’t know who’s Julliard trained or who grew up on some island collecting mussels for breakfast. Consequently, a liberal collaborative spirit is nurtured. Techniques are shared, traditions are trifled with, and voila!–A healthy evolving art community.
So the love affair moves through the seasons. And in the dead of winter when we are sick of the gloom, we paint, knit, carve, bead, make music and dance together. And as we twirl around, warm from the company, we are amazed at how many talented people are in our soggy glorious midst.
Note: All of Ketchikan’s residents can access and enjoy the wealth of creativity at 55°21”N. I’m sure Noodle is trying to get his mind around Terry Pyle’s Pyling Caps at Thomas Basin. Down at Ketchikan Coffee Company, I heard that Egghead was tagged in a tourist photo posing with one of Dave Rubin’s life-sized bronzes called The Rock. Nutmeg, one of Ketchikan’s venerable doggy members, visited The Rock as well. I hope that you too have the opportunity to experience the art of Ketchikan.