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Story last updated at 9:15 AM on Monday, January 23, 2006



From homegrown to imports, bluegrass to classical, music fills the air of the southern Kenai Peninsula. Local musicians can be enjoyed almost every weekend at area coffeehouses, bars and restaurants.

Downward Dog Productions satisfies music-hungry residents by bringing out-of-town and out-of-state musicians to the area. In addition to concerts at Mariner Theatre and on the stage of smaller venues, Downward Dog organized the first Deep Creek Music Festival in 2005, a weekend event in Ninilchik that opened with Grammy-winner Emmylou Harris.

“World Café,” a talent show hosted by Homer Council on the Arts, lets local dancers, singers and musicians strut their stuff. The council also coordinates an annual bluegrass camp for youngsters and adults, taught by Bearfoot Bluegrass, a popular group of young musicians that got its start in the Prince William Sound community of Cordova and won the 2001 Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

Throughout the year, Bunnell Street Gallery sponsors performances that entertain the public. Its artist-in-the-schools program also introduces students to a wide range of international musical talent.

The Seldovia Solstice Music Festival is a great time to visit Seldovia, on the south side of Kachemak Bay. For more information on this and other events sponsored by the Seldovia Arts Council, visit the Web site at

Concert on the Lawn, organized by public radio station KBBI, offers an open-air setting that takes advantage of long Alaska summer days, with entertainment starting early and continuing long after the sun goes down in other parts of the world. Food, crafts and local businesses join with musicians to make this a weekend of fun for the family.

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra holds an August music festival with performances in Homer and elsewhere on the peninsula. The festival includes “Champagne, Chocolate and Chopin,” a very special afternoon performance held on the deck of Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge.

Acting stage and the written page

Pier One Theatre keeps the action moving at its picturesque Homer Spit setting. Most of the performances are during the summer, but not all. In fact, it plans to kick off 2006 with January performances of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” in celebration of that play’s 400th anniversary.

Well-known playwrights, such as Shakespeare and Edward Albee, have written some of the productions shouldered by this small troupe of local actors. Local playwrights, such as Shirley Timmreck, whose plays have graced the stages of theaters outside of Alaska, have written others. The scheduled performances are a balance of musicals, dramas and comedies.

All of them are made possible by a small, talented and dedicated crew of directors, actors, musicians and volunteers who create the props, adjust lighting, fashion costumes, sweep the floor and pop the popcorn.

When the curtain goes up, the seats are typically filled. So, it is a good idea to reserve tickets in advance by calling 235-7333 and to arrive 30 minutes before the show begins. For a schedule of upcoming events, visit Pier One’s Web site at

Films and the art of filmmaking are of growing interest on the southern peninsula. The first documentary film festival was organized by Homer Theatre in 2004. The award-winning films have attracted a crowd and the crowd, in turn, has begun attracting filmmakers. The Homer Film Society provides an avenue for local filmmakers to perfect their art and film lovers to benefit from their work.

Writers of all genres are an active group on the southern peninsula. The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, organized by the Kachemak Bay Campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage, draws award-winning presenters and hundreds of attendees from across the United States in June.

For more information, check the conference Web site at


Homer’s love of art is clear on First Friday — the first Friday of each month when galleries change exhibits and host receptions.

An artist’s talk precedes the monthly opening reception at Bunnell Street Gallery. From there, it is a short distance to Art Shop Gallery, Calien Galleries, Picture Alaska art gallery, Ptarmigan Arts Gallery and Fireweed Gallery, all on Pioneer Avenue. The Pratt Museum on Bartlett Street also has exhibits, as do many local restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses.

Not all galleries are located in downtown Homer, however. The Sea Lion Fine Art Gallery, owned by local artist Gary Lyon, is on the Homer Spit. Lyon also has won acclaim for his snow-sculpting talent at competitions in and out of Alaska.

The Ben Firth Studio at Mile 161 Sterling Highway highlights sculptures in antler, wood and bronze, glass etchings and paintings by this talented family of artists. Ben and his wife, Melanie, and their daughter, Aurora, also have made a name for themselves at the World Ice Art championships in Fairbanks and the Peninsula Winter Games’ ice-sculpting competition. The Firth children also are frequent winners in the Alaska Federal Junior Duck Stamp Competition.

Access to the Norman Lowell Gallery is across Sterling Highway from Ben Firth Studio. Lowell and his wife, Libby, homesteaded this area in 1958. Their home, gardens and Lowell’s working studio are nearby. His style includes impressionistic, surreal and abstract, inspired by Alaska’s magnificent landscapes.

Kate’s Gallery at Mile 148 Sterling Highway highlights the beadwork of Kate Boyan. Having learned her art from Tlingit beader Mary Choate, Boyan creates one-of-a-kind designs that adorn leather bags, jewelry and clothing. Her work also exhibits outside of Alaska.

In Ninilchik, Nick Cooper and Elaine Self’s paintings can be viewed at Starving Artist Gallery, Mile 134.5 Sterling Highway. Cooper, who was born and raised in Ninilchik and whose voice is seasoned with the Russian accent of his first language, is a charming host. Although Self, originally from California, studied with Cooper, she has a style all her own.

Arts - youth

A host of talented young people ensure an art- and entertainment-filled future for the southern peninsula.

Homer High School has earned a reputation for performances bursting with vocal, theatrical and musical flair. Past productions have included “The Mikado,” “Les Miserables” and “West Side Story.”

For 17 years, the annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet” has drawn huge holiday crowds that enjoy watching some 100 dancers bring Tchaikovsky’s much-loved story to life. The costumes, sets and lighting are magical, and the performances repeatedly bring cheering audiences to their feet. Choreographer Jill Berryman always tucks a new element into the plot. For the past several years, a guest dancer from New York City has performed the role of the Nutcracker. For dates and times for the 2006 performances, call 235-8256.

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