Artist James Grant stained glass artwork Depicts Dena’ina subsistence lifestyle

Anchorage, Alaska (ICC) 12-08

With 4,000 pieces of brilliantly colored glass, 660 strands of beads and a total size of 26-feet-high by 17-feet-wide by 3-feet-deep, installing Fairbanks artist James Grant’s artwork in Anchorage’s new Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center has been anything but easy. But thanks to the assistance of several of the artist’s friends, “A Dena’ina Day Around Cook Inlet” is one of the final 1 percent for Art pieces to now be on display in the pre-function area, outside of the east entrances to the Ballroom at the Dena’ina Center.

The stained glass artwork is eight-feet-high and 17-feet-wide. Each piece of glass took more than 20 minutes to shape. The beaded aurora borealis, created by Fairbanks artist Shirley Holmberg, took 165 hours to complete. The piece was inspired by stories Grant has 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. 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.


Grant’s initial design was to suspend his artwork in the east windows off the third floor ballroom in the Den’ina Center. As architects made the final touches to the ballroom, however, everyone agreed that the ballroom windows should remain open to frame the dramatic Chugach Mountains. So, Grant tweaked his design to hang in the southeast window of the pre-function area, outside the Ballroom. Visitors to the Dena’ina Center will see the piece as soon as they turn the corner to the pre-function area. The colors and effect of the piece will be different to the viewer, depending on the time of day and season.

The beaded borealis features 660 strands of beads representing all of the colors of the northern lights. Stands range from 3.5 feet to 6.2 feet in length. The beaded structure is supported from three curved, silver-colored brackets slightly above and in front of the stained glass artwork, allowing the luminous strands of beads to sway with the air current. Holmberg’s daughter, Tsi-Yaa Bihag of Anchorage, helped prepare the beads for hanging.

The James Grant $125,000 stained glass artwork is the last major installation of art into the Dena’ina Center. Three masks by Fairbanks asrtist Kathleen Carlo will be added to the walls in the Executive Board Room within the next two weeks, joining two paintings by Sonya Kelliher-Combs that have already been installed. The total cost for 1 percent for art in the building, commissioned from five different artists, is $515,000.

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