Editor’s note: This is the third story in a four-part series during each week of June for Pride Month that features prominent LGBTQ+ residents in Juneau that have made a positive impact on the capital city.
Chloey Cavanaugh never pictured art being her full-time job.
Yet, as she stood in her studio in downtown Juneau, surrounded by boxes upon boxes overflowing with apparel of her own design while she packed a large suitcase to the brim in preparation for a popup show in Anchorage — it appeared that was her reality.
At just 27 years old, Cavanaugh’s work is far-reaching, spanning across Juneau, Alaska and the country. Residents might have seen her work featured at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center gallery this past fall, as last year’s Pride Month logo for the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance, or even perhaps while walking down the street.
Though her art can be seen all over the country, Cavanaugh said she can’t imagine moving far from home, saying much of her art comes from the inspiration she finds from the land, her Tlingit identity and her family. Cavanaugh attributes much of her love for art to teachers during her youth as well as her family — most notably her grandfather, Archie James Cavanaugh, who passed away in 2018.
“When you leave it feels like you have to give up a big portion of your culture — because there is just so much of it here,” she said. “I think it kind of ties into a lot of what I do. The apparel that I design is centered around those cultural conversations.”
Cavanaugh’s business is named after an album written by her grandfather. She said she found art was a way to express her grief and mourn the loss of her grandfather. When she decided to create her company, she was drawn to the positive impact her grandfather had made on her life and wanted to honor that.
“We talk a lot about generational trauma in our communities, the impacts that it has and I felt like my grandpa was such an example to myself of generational success,” she said. “So I wanted to name my business after him to kind of carry on the power of what love can accomplish.”
She said her uncle, Tlingit Master Carver Wayne Price, also played a major role in inspiring her to pursue art as a career.
Cavanaugh is now in a similar teaching role as the people who opened the doors for her when she was young. She has taught classes at the Juneau School District’s Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy program and at different communities in Southeast Alaska. Cavanaugh said she finds it important to give children the space and tools to explore art in their own ways.
“I think it’s about creating the space to give permission,” she said. “These kids are opening up their own doors because they know what they want to do.”
Cavanaugh’s designs also intertwine her indigeneity with her identity as a part of the LGBTQ+ community in Juneau. One of her more popular pieces, which is nearly sold out on her website, is a purple shirt with the phrase “Support LGBTQ+ Youth” in rainbow letters with a Northwest Coast-style drawing on the back.
She said she uses her art to spread a message of support not only for adults in the LGBTQ+ community in Juneau, but especially for the youth.
“There’s a lot of stuff and conversations that I wanted to have growing up in this community of how hard it felt to be LGBTQ, and how hard it felt to not know if being who I was, was okay,” she said. “Now as an adult, I feel really lucky to be so supported by the community and to be able to bring other people’s ideas to life.”
She said she hopes to see the LGBTQ+ community grow to become more inclusive and welcoming by creating spaces outside of typical platforms like bars or parties, along with growing the art community in Juneau to make those spaces beyond the classroom and into the community.
“I feel like sometimes people think they aren’t creative, but if you give these people the tools it’s really exciting to see what they create,” she said. “I think bringing more artists into the community and uplifting each other is important, and that’s similar within the queer community — uplifting one another, making these safe spaces and making sure people feel included is exciting.”
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807.