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‘There is really a vibrant art community here’; new installation highlights over thirty local artists

C.O. Rudstrom stands with his artwork
Hunter Morrison
C.O. Rudstrom stands with his artwork

A metal raven will greet patrons at the door when they enter the Kenai Art Center this month to enjoy the center’s biennial judged show. The month-long installation will feature the work of more than thirty local artists, from photographers, to painters to ceramicists.

“What I have noticed is that people will come in and say ‘Oh man, I didn’t realize we had so many artists in Kenai, or in the Soldotna area, or just on the peninsula,’” said Charlotte Coots, Executive Director at the Kenai Art Center. “They seem to think that all the artists are just in Homer or in Anchorage, but we delightfully have a large group of artists that submit work to every show that they can.”

Although the gallery regularly displays pieces from locals in its other exhibits, the biennial judged show almost exclusively showcases peninsula-based artists. Coots says that she knows nearly every artist who submitted work.

One of them is C.O. Rudstrom, a functional artist who created a large, industrial fire basket. His inspiration behind this piece was the aesthetic and beauty of fire, coupled with the functionality of a fire pit.

“I’m hoping that when we do build a fire, we’ll be able to see that glow and sparkle of the fire showing through the weave of this basket,” Rudstrom said.

While Rudstrom has created functional pieces like these for a number of years, he says that it took him a while to realize that his work is art. He believes that beauty can be found in the ordinary.

“Things we surround ourselves with can be both functional and beautiful,” Rudstrom said. “This is especially true for common, everyday items. We should surround ourselves with beauty.”

Most of the artists featured in the gallery have full-time careers outside of the art world. Coots hopes that installations like these will increase the general public’s awareness of artists locally.

“As an artist, it’s hard to make a living doing that,” Coots said. “Most of the artists have another job and that’s where they earn the majority of their money, but art is their love and their favorite hobby. We should give them a place to nurture that and to support them, because it helps that part of our community and culture grow.”

“There is really a vibrant art community here, and it is great to be part of that,” Rudstrom added. “Art enhances our lives, it makes our homes and workplaces more beautiful and enjoyable. I feel honored to be part of that, to spread that joy to everyone.”

The biennial judged show will run from Oct. 6 - 28. An opening reception will take place this Friday from 5 - 7 p.m.

Disclaimer: Hunter Morrison will have artwork on view at the Kenai Art Center’s biennial judged show. 

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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