Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 9:30 PM on Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Class of 2010 leaves artistic legacy

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


"I felt privileged to be a part of it." — Bill Kitzmiller

Patrons of the arts often come with fancy titles, like the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alaska State Arts Council on the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation. A new arts project installed last month in the Homer High School commons happened thanks to an uncommon arts patron — the Homer High School class of 2010.

To create a unified theme reflecting the wooden ship's wheel over the entrance to the Alice Witte Gymnasium, Homer artist Bill Kitzmiller sculpted wooden signs over the Mariner Theatre and the commons stage. Kitzmiller, known for his use of found materials, crafted the signs from pine, spruce and red cedar driftwood found on Kachemak Bay beaches.

"I felt privileged to be a part of it," Kitzmiller said.

Homer High School principal Allan Gee said the idea for the signs came up in discussions in spring 2010 with the graduating seniors. Over their high school years, the seniors had raised money through dances and other events. After spending their account on things like T-shirts and senior gifts, the class of 2010 had about $1,000 left in its budget. Gee asked them what they wanted to do with the money.

"I suggested they leave something behind to commemorate their years at Homer High School," Gee said.

The class of 2010 said it wanted to do something to increase school spirit. Last year, the high school started a remodel of the commons, adding details like painting the school colors of blue and gold around the second-floor balcony edge. Photographs of students doing sports and other activities have been put up around the commons.

The old sign over the Mariner Theatre entrance didn't match the theme established by the ship's wheel. Gee suggested that the class of 2010 commission an artist to create new signs at the theater and over the stage.

"They thought, what a great idea," Gee said.

Theater manager Lynne Rolf suggested Kitzmiller. His Mariner Theatre sign uses two pieces. Working out of his Solarwind Art Studio at the Yurt Village on Sterling Highway, Kitzmiller carved the top piece with the word "Mariner" and the traditional theater masks out of a curved piece of driftwood.

"It had such a nice natural shape and conforms to the whales that are here," Kitzmiller said, referring to a skeleton of a sperm whale and a model of an orca whale hanging from the commons ceiling.

The theater sign also reflects the curve of the archway over the entrance. Kitzmiller kept much of the natural color of the wood to go along with the rustic patina of the old ship's wheel, too. By carving into lighter wood and leaving the tops of the letters the color of the aged wood, the letters stand out without needing paint. Patterns in the wood also give the mask shapes character.

"Those theater masks were a lot of fun to carve," Kitzmiller said.

Although he received an honorarium, Kitzmiller said he considered much of his time to be a contribution to the high school.

"That was exciting to be a part of that," he said.

For future graduating classes, Gee said he hopes they'll consider leaving a similar legacy. After spring break he'll meet with the class of 2011 to talk about graduation plans and how they would like to spend their budget. One idea is to create a bench.

"Now that they've seen this happen, hopefully this will spark some interest," Gee said of the class of 2011. "They'll leave something behind in remembrance of their class."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael. armstrong@homernews.com.