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.
The issue of immigration is again a dominate concern in the United States. Over the decades, the Irish, Eastern Europeans and Chinese met with hostility and at times violence when they sought opportunity or asylum on our shores.
David James is a local writer and reviewer who has a series in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner profiling immigrant Alaskans. He suggested today’s guest to me. Linda Thai was part of the Vietnamese exodus in the 1970s. She was only two years old when she and her parents boarded an overcrowded boat in the middle of the night to escape the persecution and possible death. As you’ll hear the found a new home in Australia, but the trauma of events still shapes their lives.
This show is an encore conversation that originally aired in 2016. Last week I was on Ester Dome Road when I saw a figure running towards me. It turned out to be endurance athlete Bob Baker, known to many as “Bad Bob.” He was out training. In itself, that isn’t remarkable. But I reflected that it was a little more than two years ago that “Bad Bob” collapsed following a running race in which he competed. As you’ll hear, it isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say he died. And, it also isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say he was too ornery to stay dead. Luckily, there were several physicians at the race and defibrillating paddles. Not only did he survive, but in the fall, he participated in the Equinox Marathon, albeit walking and jogging in the race, not running. With so many people preparing to run the September race again, I decided to replay the conversation.