This article was originally written for the Anchorage Daily News.
The sun is still shining at 8 p.m. and the ice is almost entirely melted off the sidewalks. That means Anchorage is entering into the best time of year to walk around downtown and check out the First Friday art openings.
There are plenty of places downtown April 5 that First Friday-goers are familiar with — the International Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Anchorage Museum, to name a couple. But this year a few newer galleries have sprung up in unexpected places.
320 W. Sixth Ave. Ste. 132F
Jovell Rennie was facing a consistent problem when showing his photography for First Friday events. A lot of the venues downtown hosting First Fridays are coffee shops and restaurants — businesses where the art is secondary.
“I’m thankful that the businesses would even consider opening their doors to creatives, but there weren’t a lot of spaces in town that were dedicated to the consumption of art,” said Rennie.
That’s why Rennie — alongside Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz, Willie Dalton and Mikey Huff — opened Akela Space last spring.
The space is tucked away on Sixth Avenue across the street from the Nordstrom. It’s an open room with large, floor-to-ceiling windows. One wall of the gallery is covered by a highly detailed mural by local artist Ted Kim, who completed the piece in one eight-hour sitting.
Rennie says each event at Akela Space is different from the last. In addition to art openings, they’ve hosted wrestling in sumo suits and musical performances.
“It is a labor of love,” said Rennie. “We don’t pay ourselves from Akela, we just put the money right back into the space.”
Rennie says they try to have multiple events a month, including artist lectures and refreshers — Akela’s way of bringing people back in to view the art. Rennie says Akela Space is their way of giving back, not only to the community but to the artists, too
This Friday, Akela Space will be hosting “Embarrassingly Bad Photos of Really Great People” from 6-10 p.m. For more information visit Akela Collective on Facebook (320 W. Sixth Ave. Ste. 132F)
419 G St. Ste. 200
Simonetta Mignano had an idea buzzing in her brain; she wanted to start an indie bookstore.
“I can’t think of something that I love more than books,” said Mignano. “I spent the last decade dwelling into this field, and I just love it everyday more.”
When she started looking for a location, she found the space in a building on G Street dating back to the 1930 or ‘40s that she fell in love with, complete with hardwood floors and original wallpaper. She says the idea for a gallery came with the space.
Mignano is originally from Italy and has a background in art publishing. She recognized that there was a direct connection with people in the community and Alaska-inspired art.
“I thought it would be interesting to bridge some sort of connection and inspiration between artists and art from here and artists and art not from here,” said Mignano.
Today, Bivy is an art gallery that doubles as a small bookstore, with shows changing every two months. She operates the space with her husband, Matt.
“I see Bivy as a project that doesn’t have a deadline or an expiration date,” said Mignano. “I’m not tired, my husband is not tired. I think one big thing that I would like is to collaborate on a programmatic level with people from here.”
Works of Michael Conti, John Coyne, Stephen Cysewski, Philippe Fragniere, Rebecka Tollens and Emma Sheffer are featured in “Snow Day,” which is on display at Bivy from 5-9 p.m. (419 G St. Ste. 200)
706 W. Fourth Ave.
What once housed a floral shop and Katie Sevigny’s art studio on Fourth Avenue is reopening as Tiny Gallery, a space highlighting Alaska-made products.
Glass artist Laurette Rose of Cold Rose Creations is launching the Tiny Gallery. She says that every piece at the gallery is certified Made in Alaska.
Despite the name, Tiny Gallery is not puny — it’s around 700 square feet. Rose says there is a storage area as well as a workspace. She plans to teach small workshops in the fall and make the gallery available for other artists to teach classes, too.
“A lot of people are like, ‘I don’t really think it’s that tiny,’ but the front of it is a lot more condensed,” said Rose. “There is a functional amount of space, but I just like the name Tiny Gallery.”
Rose says she hopes the warmer weather will bring people out to the opening.
“It’s light outside, it’s warm, so I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get downtown and do the first Friday thing,” said Rose.
The gallery’s grand opening is on Friday from 4-8 p.m. (706 W. Fourth Ave.)