On Monday, a new image started to take shape on the formerly blank south wall of the Marine Parking garage, the structure on which the downtown branch of Juneau’s public library sits.
Tlingit and Athabascan artist, designer, and activist Crystal Kaakeeyaa Worl and her team of apprentices are installing a new mural depicting Elizabeth Kaaxgal.aat Peratrovich, a Tlingit civil rights icon. The work will greet visitors approaching downtown Juneau by water.
Peratrovich, who was born in Petersburg and lived in Juneau, worked for equality for Alaska Natives and is best known for her 1945 speech to the territory Legislature that helped prompt an anti-discrimination law in Alaska almost 20 years before the federal government took similar steps.
The 60- by 25-foot mural has been a labor of love for Worl, who has overcome many obstacles to bring the work to life.
As the project started moving, COVID-19 delivered a blow by thwarting her plans to collaborate with Lauren Brevner, a Vancouver-based artist specializing in large-scale pieces featuring women of color.
“We had to put the collaboration aside,” Worl said during a recent interview, noting that it was not practical to ship art back and forth and travel restrictions made it impossible to get together in person.
Earlier this year, as Worl was preparing to order the special paints and supplies for the project from a supplier in Texas, freezing temperatures plunged the state into darkness and affected the production of the materials she needs — an event that pushed her timeline back a few months.
“There have been so many hurdles,” she said. “I had to make some scary predictions on paints and sealants because they are tough to get.”
Earlier this summer, a Philadelphia-based printer shipped the pieces printed on parachute cloth to Juneau.
In a downtown studio, Worl and her team did the painstaking work of applying layers of paint to the pieces. The work involved an intricate process of hanging each section to apply the paint.
Once the pieces were dry, the team met at Centennial Hall to put all the pieces in place and get the first look at the completed mural.
Heavy rains last week delayed initial installation plans. But, with the drier weather forecast for this week and the wall cleaned and ready to go, Worl and her team are working to adhere the mural to the wall and add the finishing touches — a process that will involve handpainting into the crevices.
Once Worl installs the mural, a final coat of sealant will protect the work from sun, rain, wind and snow.
About the mural
Worl said that the mixed-media piece features bold contemporary colors and uses a Northwest Coast formline design. The mural features a large picture of Peratrovich with a raven and sockeye in the background to represent her moiety and clan. Brightly colored salmon eggs in the foreground represent regeneration and looking to the future.
The City and Borough of Juneau will own the piece. Sealaska Heritage Institute will provide insurance for and maintain public safety during installation and has agreed to repair the mural for the next 10 years.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891.