Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:41 PM on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kayla Spaan: young transplant lives the dream

Kachemak Color

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer


Photographer: Lindsay Johnson, Homer News

Kayla Spaan sits in a salvaged chair at home. When asked what she's done since coming to Homer last July, Spaan said, "Just try to focus on art and living sustainability." She sees many outlets in Homer for people to exist in a healthy ways.

The story is familiar: finding yourself suddenly at home at the end of the road. Be it the natural landscapes, the cultural opportunities or the people, the fact is that something about Homer is magnetic.

The Common Space project, a series of video interviews of Homer residents that opened at the Bunnell Street Arts Center last week, reveals themes like that through a individual stories. (See related story, page 12.)

Kayla Spaan was one of the story collectors. In six interviews with people she regularly encounters, Spaan captured a cross section of Homer with a theme of the dream of sustainability.

There are two single men chasing dreams of homesteading and farming, a young couple thinking about sustainability and preparing for a long bike trip, a family facing life with a baby, an older man crafting natural objects and building a field station.

This cast of characters is part of what makes Spaan, 24, feel at home in Homer. Ready for a change from hometown Anchorage, Spaan relocated this summer when one of her band mates came down and her nanny job ended.

"I've been around to different places, but I've never been to a place like Homer. It seemed kind of synchronistic, serendipitous. Things kept on falling into place," Spaan said of the apparently random series of events that brought her to where she is now.

"I yurt-sat for a gentleman then just kind of felt like it was home," she said.

Spaan integrated quickly, teaching kid activities at the Farmers' Market, working at Nomad Shelter's yurt village, helping facilitate folk orchestra, participating in community visual art events.

"All type of art I like — directly related to sustainability and growing and bicycles and literature, that's strongly connected to nature — Homer supports that aesthetic and that diversity within people working together," she said.

Spaan cites institutions such as Pick-and-Pay, Homer Hounds, the dump and the public library as examples of a well-supported community.

"Even things like Save-U-More, there's something so comforting and good about it," she said.

Spaan grew up in the Anchorage neighborhood of Spenard, the daughter of a filmmaker and a judge. She dropped out of high school at age 15 because she kept skipping school to go to the bookstore. She earned a bachelor of arts, emphasis in printmaking from University of Alaska Anchorage when she was 20 and now continues her education in real life.

"I have to un-brainwash myself. I have to do a lot more life living before I can consider myself a well-rounded adult. A strict college education is not enough for people to live in the real life world, maybe in the corporate world. But when you come to a place like Homer things like electricians, carpenters, fishermen even artists are better off than a liberal arts degree," she said.

Among other endeavors, Spaan has traveled through Canada and the continental United States by bicycle, WWOOFed — volunteering through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms — on a farm in New Mexico, taught screenprinting to detained girls at the McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage.

Coming to Homer has given her more opportunities to practice practical skills, including art.

"Functional art is really important. I'm more interested in being an artist as a homesteader than an artist as a city artist. The whole desire to be creative or do art, it comes from our basic need of making things when we were more indigenous," she said.

Though she's a skilled printmaker, Spaan has shifted her focus to interactive art, gardening, collecting seaweed, making mead and finding people to play music with.

One of her big dreams is to build a community based on whole foods and creative healing, someplace like the macrobiotic community of Ionia near Kasilof.

Though uncertain Homer is where she'll settle down, Spaan said it has high potential for the new, community-focused homesteading she has in mind.

"I feel like if you can learn how to be sustainable here you can learn how to be sustainable almost anywhere. It's not necessarily very easy here, but people still thrive doing it. It just feels really right," she said.

Like the numerous others who have found Homer as a place to be themselves, Spaan thinks the end of the road will fit with her flow for a while.

"As long as I still have places to push my boundaries of growth that's what I'll do," she said. "Homer's a good place for people who like to go and explore. Of course I'll get the travel bug, but I kind of foresee Homer as a home base, especially if I have bigger projects."

So she goes, fearless and full of love, a new chapter in Homer's colorful story.

Lindsay Johnson may be reached at Lindsay.johnson@homernews.com