In the closing weeks of the mid-term elections, Mr. Trump characterized the long line of women, children, and men trudging through Central America and Mexico as an invasion. He also claimed, without evidence, the so-called caravan harbored Middle-Eastern terrorists. Trump’s claims astounded my guest this show. Alberto Arce is an award-winning journalist who spent four years covering Central America for the Associated Press and the New York Times. Arce currently occupies the Snedden Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He describes the daily misery and danger ordinary citizens in Honduras face and why they seek sanctuary hundreds of miles north.
I first met sculpture Dennis Gaboury years ago when he and his wife, writer Elinor Burkett, were in Fairbanks. Elinor and Dennis met when she was writing one of the first books on the Catholic Church’s Clergy Sex abuse scandal. Dennis was abused by Fr. James Porter. Porter eventually was convicted of molesting 28 children. KUAC interviewed Dennis when he was here and I participated in a townhall forum with Dennis and Elinor about clergy abuse.
Elinor and Dennis moved on, had postings in other interesting parts of the world and I lost track of them. Then I learned Dennis was back in Fairbanks selling dolls and wire sculptures created by orphans from Zimbabwe. In fact, he had formed an organization called Zimkids Orphan Trust. Its motto is “Built by Orphans, Run by Orphans, For Orphans.” Its unique business model aims at sustainability. He and his protégé Tinashe Basa have been back to Fairbanks almost annually in recent years because of the deep roots Dennis formed with people here. Tinashe currently oversees day-to-day operations at the orphanage. But he is also a musician and he built and operates his own recording studio. He created the music you hear in this piece.
An active Mount Veniaminof: image courtesy of the Alaska Volcano Observatory
Over the past several episodes guest producer John Perreault has been visiting with scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. This year marks its 30th anniversary. Today John wraps up on a bittersweet note as he talks with Dr. Jeff Freymueller, who recently departed AVO after more than two decades of teaching and research.
And I visit with Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist and Education Specialist Mark Ross. He’s been introducing visitors and locals to the wonders of the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge for decades. His notebook observations and drawings have also been a welcome periodic feature in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
We begin with an interview about the Alaska Volcano Observatory which is celebrating 30 years of service. Volunteer producer John Perreault will bring us a series of conversations about its work over the next several shows. John begins the series with a conversation with Dr. Jessica Larsen.
I talk with Dr. Sarah Stanley, who not only serves as Director of University Writing but helps organize a group of educators who enter Fairbanks Correctional Center to empower women inmates to express themselves through writing. That passion for the written word extends to other outreach efforts including the upcoming Celebration of Writing.
And in Katexic Clippings Chris Lott looks at instances when words, written or spoken, aren’t enough.
This summer was a hard one for me and others who knew the talented musician, actor, and producer Sarah Mitchell. Sarah took her life with a gun in August. Sarah was the daughter of local performers Gianna Drogheo and Steve Mitchell and I knew her since she was a girl. Audiences visiting or living in Fairbanks knew her from her engaging summer performances at the Palace Theater and Saloon. But Sarah was also a passionate champion of other artists. The best example of this is her project to create a CD of Jim Bell’s music. I spoke with Sarah just before the CD’s release. I replay it in tribute to her generous spirit.
Also on the show, “First Friday” events in Fairbanks are usually festive affairs where new work of painters, printers, writers and sculptors is unveiled in gallery openings. But in October, two first-Friday events have a more somber theme: gun safety. First, Well Street Art Company will display several banners with the portraits of scores of Alaskans wearing targets. Local photographer Kate Wool found herself called to respond with her images in the wake of repeated reports of mass shootings in schools and other public venues. The result was the “I am not a target” project. Her work came to the attention of the national For Freedoms organization, which seeks to stimulate social discussion through artistic expression. They selected Wool’s work for support.
Ernestine Hayes’ memoirs have attracted widespread praise and garnered her several prestigious awards, including an American Book Award. Hayes is a Tlingit elder and her works weave together myth, fiction and autobiographical details to produce rich, multi-layered examinations of her life. Hayes is also Alaska’s Writer Laureate and recently she was in Fairbanks giving the keynote address at the Alaska State Council on the Arts conference. I had a chance to speak with her following that address.
KUAC television is premiering a new series called Into the Woods. It focuses on three Fairbanks residents who take part in a painterly boot camp. Instead of a red-faced and shouting master drill sergeant however, they are guided gently into artistic techniques and approaches by Kes Woodward, painter, art historian and professor emeritus at University of Alaska Fairbanks. As you’ll hear, KUAC producer Makenzie Landry came up with the idea for the series after profiling Woodward for a shorter project.
The Equinox Marathon is in its 56th year and its elevation gain and root-scored trails can be intimidating for runners used to flat conditions and paved roads. While the event caps the Running Club North’s Usibelli series, for Drew Harrington it proved a springboard, propelling him to tackle longer, more grueling events. He even helped organize the Angel Creek 50-Miler race.
Most of us know or work with people who hail from another country. But asking how the people actually made it here demonstrates a keen instinct for story. That is the case with David James. Many know him for his book reviews in the Ester Republic, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and other periodicals. But for the past several years he’s been profiling many of the people who left other countries, seeking a place where hard work and safety could produce a rich and satisfying life. It turns out David James’ own story, in many ways, mirrors those of his subjects. He had no idea he’d be a respected writer when on a whim he accepted an invitation to come to Fairbanks.
Also, Randy Zarnke, who recently received the Leadership award from the National Trappers Association, says when the manuscript by a 19th century miner came to his attention he knew he had to bring it to print.
I continue my discussion with Linda Thai. She was two when she and her parents fled Viet Nam as part of the “Boat People” exodus. Locally, her story was first captured by David James in a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner profile piece. While Thai’s family found safety and opportunity in Australia, being a foreign minority in Australia presented its own challenges, not least to Linda and her sister as they grew up between worlds. Despite the challenges, Linda says she has found her way home.