Artwork displayed throughout the Dena’ina Center uniquely depicts how the building is tied to the land and its original Dena’ina Athabascan people, reminding visitors that although Anchorage is a vibrant city, it is also a place of history and culture that dates back thousands of years. Individual rooms in Dena’ina feature wonderful works of Alaska Native art, including masks, prints and paintings. The pieces showcase the traditions and heritage of the Dena’ina. Two works are particuarly prominent:
Prospect (formerly “Constellation”)
“Prospect” is a menagerie of animals, birds and plant life indigenous to the Cook Inlet Region swirling in a 65-foot conical tunnel suspended from the ceiling in the grand lobby. It culminates 15 feet above the main lobby floor over a bed of autumn leaves engraved in bronze tile.
Inspired by the Dena’ina fish trap, the stunning centerpiece features 300 glowing resin birds, wildlife and Alaska sea creatures. As it spans from ceiling to floor, the artwork creates interaction among all levels within the building, shimmering like a beacon to passersby outside.
“Prospect” was the second art piece to be installed in the Dena’ina Center. A traditional Athabascan fish trap, built by artist Alan Dick of Lime Village, is located on the second level.
“People visiting the Dena’ina Center will truly get a sense of the depth and rich history represented by the Dena’ina Athabascan people, as well as their respect and reverence for the land,” said Artist and Sculptor Ralph Helmick.
Helmick collaborated with Stuart Schechter, an MIT-trained engineer, former rocket scientist and sculptor. The duo has designed other public art projects including those in Sea-Tac and Philadelphia Airports, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
A Dena’ina Day Around Cook Inlet
“A Dena’ina Day Around Cook Inlet” is a stained glass mural, by Athabascan artist James L. Grant. Installed on the south wall, outside the Dena’ina Center’s Tikahtnu ballroom, visitors can spot the piece as they turn the corner to the Ballroom Foyer.
Grant’s mural is a 26×17 foot aluminum frame filled with 4,000 pieces of brilliantly colored glass and 660 strands of beads that represent the colors of the Aurora Borealis. It features colorful displays of hunters, berry pickers, fish drying on racks, fishermen, fish weirs, children, sea life, a log house with a sod roof, boats and many other activities on land and water.
The colors and effect of the piece will be different to the viewer, depending on the time of day and season.
Grant is an Athabascan Native who was born in Tanana and now resides in Fairbanks. This piece was inspired by stories he heard and read by Shem Pete, a Dena’ina Athabascan Native leader who realized the need to document his people’s stories, dancing and language.