"Communities, Disaster & Change" is a traveling exhibition coordinated by the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, in Valdez, Alaska. It provides a twist on the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake commemoration through its connection with other communities and other disasters. The exhibit will travel around the state as well as to Oregon, and Hawaii. The full travel schedule and complete online gallery of the exhibit can be seen here.

This blog serves as a place to host a global conversation about the indomitable nature of the human spirit and communities' reactions to change, how they survive disaster and how they rebuild for the future. We hope this can be a tool for people like you, all across the world, to reach out and share your stories on survival and the will to carry on.

If you have seen the exhibit whether online or in person we want to know your reaction to the work of these twenty-eight Alaskan artists. Please join us in an ongoing conversation, and chime in with your thoughts, views and your personal stories of your community, disaster, and change.

04 November 2015

Earthquake Account by Diane Ferrier, CDC at Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Juneau-Douglas City Museum Unpacking
Artwork for the Upcoming
"Communities Disaster and Change Exhibition"


Juneau-Douglas City Museum is hosting CDC!

 Twenty-eight, talented Alaskan artists featured in this exhibition will be on display for a First Friday reception on November 6, from 4:30 to 7 pm through November 28, 2015.

Simultaneously, Juneau-Douglas will be featuring historical photographs documenting local disasters. This exhibit coinciding with "Communities, Disaster & Change" is aptly titled "Disasters at Home." These intriguing pictures depict devastation to people's homes caused by a landslide, avalanche, flooding and fires. The exhibit opens October 2nd, 2015 and closes November, 2016.

Lives are forever changed after enduring disasters such as those mentioned above. The excerpt below is a personal account told through a Valdez High School student's eyes. She was a senior. Her name is Diane Ferrier.

Diane Ferrier's Account of the 1964 Earthquake in Old Town Valdez

"On Friday, the 27th, at 530 in the evening I was walking home from work. It was a rather quiet day, but really quite ordinary. I had walked about two blocks and had just started toward the Post Office. I noticed an elderly woman that had gone into the Post Office. All at once, and very unexpectedly, the ground started shaking and the buildings that I could see started to crack. Many flooded and fell off their foundations. All around me the roads were cracking and water was spurting up from the cracks. The first thing I did was to help the woman out of the Post Office. I tried to comfort two little boys that were near by.
After the shaking let up I tried to get home to my family, but there was no way to get home. Water was rushing in on the streets and I could not see the cracks underneath. As I was trying to get down to the street where I lived I caught up to some girls that were trying to get home that way, too. We walked together for awhile before a man in a pick-up stopped and let   us crawl in the back.
I was worried about my family and I wanted to get back to see if they were still home, but there was no way to get home.   As we were driving past the grade school, I spotted my mother and sister in a car with some friends, so they stopped and    let me in with them.
My biggest worry was about my father and brother. They had gone out on the water to another bay to so some logging and were not back yet. There was no way I could find out how they were, so all I could do was hope. I really thought there would be no hope for them, because of the tidal wave that followed the earthquake.
We sat in the car for about an hour at the edge of town until everything died down, and then we went home with the people whose car we were in. We were there about three or four hours when my father and brother came in the door. My family  was finally all together! It was really a miracle that my father and brother made it safely back from down the bay. They    had been on shore, logging, when the earthquake happened and land slides started all around them. They rushed to a       skiff, which was taken off with a big wave and swept back in. They jumped out of the skiff onto their boat and the skiff and motor were smashed into little pieces. They headed off in the opposite direction from Valdez because the wave was in front of them. When it was safe for them, they stopped and turned on the radio. The first thing they heard was that Valdez had been wiped out, so they steered the boat straight for home driving the boat as fast as it would go. When they got to Valdez there was no dock left, and they had a hard time getting off the boat.
After we had been sitting around the table for an hour or so I happened to look out of the window. I noticed that there       was a fire in the downtown area. My dad told us to run out towards the airport because we had no car, and there was     danger of the oil tanks exploding. The airport is only a mile and a half from our house and the closest way out of town on our side of town. Before we had gone too far some people stopped and picked us up. To get to the airport we had to drive over two cracks in the road between 18 and 20 inches wide. We ended up with a flat tire and a bent tie rod. We spent the night at the airport and from there we could see the town burning.
We went back to town about 5:30 in the morning. We all went into the house and dad turned on the furnace and lit the stove and in a few hours we ate breakfast. After we had eaten we went around town looking at the damage that had been caused. Union Oil and three or four other buildings were either burned to the ground or still burning. After we had looked around town we went home and packed and said good-bye to all our friends that were left. We headed for up the road. It was really sad leaving town especially when we didn't know if we would see our friends again."
If one of our readers has an account such as this we would love to see it on this blog!!! Share your stories with us!!!!


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23 October 2015

CDC at the Juneau-Douglas Museum

CDC Crates arrive at the Juneau-Douglas Museum
 CDC is back in Alaska after it's long journey to Gallery Iolani, Winward College in Honolulu and Coos Bay Museum, Oregon!! Communities, Disaster & Change, our traveling exhibition, has one final stop in Juneau, AK. CDC has been traveling for a year! The show will be featured at the Juneau-Douglas Museum October 18th to October 30th.  Please, check it out! This is your last opportunity to experience this amazing show. Stay tuned for more pictures of Juneau-Douglas opening reception.
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25 August 2015

Art Therapy Working in Saudi Arabia


Dr. Awad Al-Yami, an art therapist trained at the University of Pennsylvania, dedicates his life to rehabilitating terrorists through art therapy, counseling, and religion. The therapeutic center is called Mohammad Bin Naif Counseling Center located in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh. The compound, once a holiday resort, is home to a golf course and swimming pool.
Since 2008, the center boasts 3,000 Saudi men have graduated from the program. 120 of these graduates are from Guantanamo Day Prison. This terrorism rehab center claims to have a success rate of 80 percent. Prisoners with only non violent crime convictions are allowed at the rehabilitation center. Dr. Awad Al-Yami has pioneered a program so unique to such a conservative country where some say drawing is a sin. The inmates wall of paintings and drawings are evidence enough that this type of therapy can work for some young, non-violent prisoners.

Dr. Awad Al-Yami says about twenty percent leave the center to return to fighting but that is still far less than do not. He prepares himself for the new generation of ISIS terrorists that are more extreme than Al Qaeda. Members of ISIS currently serving time will attend the center after their sentences. Dr. Awad Al -Yami wonders what he will do with this new generation? Will he be successful? Are these tactics not tough enough for young ISIS? Can programs involving art therapy really help rehabilitate such extreme criminals?
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03 August 2015

Valdez Museum Intern and Natural Disaster in Chile!!!

Ms. Larroza, the New Valdez Museum Summer Intern
Working with Mammoth Teeth
 Found in Ester, Alaska 

The Valdez Museum welcomes Juliana Larroza, our new intern for the 2015 summer season!! She has come to us through a grant from the Alaska State Museum. Ms. Larroza is working towards her master’s in Museum Studies at New York University. She has interned at museums in Italy, Coast Rica, Brazil and Argentina. The Valdez Museum has many ongoing preservation projects of which Juliana is hard at work on. She is currently building proper housing for a set of mammoth teeth found in Esther, Alaska. The teeth were donated by Leroy and Marne Churches in 1976.

Traditional Chilean Dancing
 I asked Ms. Larroza if she has ever experienced natural disaster? She said she had not but her family volunteered their time in Los Angeles, their home, to raise money for the victims of the 2010, 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile. Ms. Larroza is first generation Columbian with family in Argentina, Chile, Columbia and Miami. Ms. Larroza’s Aunt and Chilean husband live in L.A. but have loved ones who suffered the 2010 earthquake in Chile.
National Pride

The earthquake in central Chile was the sixth largest ever to be recorded by a seismograph. The quake triggered a tsunami that destroyed several coastal towns in south-central Chile. Chileans were devastated as their belongings and loved ones were ripped away from them. Juliana Larroza’s family gathered to organize “Unidos Por Chile,” a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and collecting emergency supplies for victims of the Chilean disaster. Local artists, dancers, businesses and community members gathered for the “Unidos Por Chile” festival in LA, California.

Above are images from the fund raising festival depicting community support through traditional dance, art, music and national pride! Has anyone else experienced this kind of community support!?

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23 July 2015

CDC Currently at the Coos Art Museum!!!


                 Coos Art Museum Presents

          "Communities, Disaster and Change"

July 11, 2015 @ 5:00 PM – September 26, 2015 @ 10:00 PM
Communities, Disaster and Change is a traveling exhibition of contemporary Alaskan art organized by the Valdez Museum of Historical Archive, in Valdez, Alaska. The exhibition is in the Mabel Hansen gallery, in the Coos Art Museum. Framed by the 50th Anniversary of the devastating Good Friday earthquake that struck Alaska on March 27, 1964, the exhibit features 28 of Alaska’s finest artists from around the state. Each of the artists has submitted on artwork that address how natural disasters have affected their communities and how these communities have responded to such challenges.

Catch CDC in Coos Bay, Oregon or back in Alaska on October 6th, 2015 at the Juneau-Douglas Museum!

CDC Travel Exhibition Calendar:
May 2 – September 9                                     Valdez Museum                              Valdez, AK
September 15 – October 18                        Pratt Museum                                   Homer, AK
November 1 – January 2, 2014                   Cordova Museum                             Cordova, AK
2015                                                                                                                                                                                               January 9 – February 23                                Well St. Art Company                     Fairbanks, AK
March 2 – June 30                                          Windward Community College     Kaneohe, HI
July 11 – September 26                                 Coos Art Museum                            Coos Bay, OR
October 6 – December 15                            Juneau-Douglas City Museum        Juneau, AK

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26 June 2015

Ron Senungutuk, A Lifetime of Art

Ron Senungetuk from Asia Freeman on Vimeo

This video about Ron Senungetuk, created for the Alaska State Council on the Arts by Alaskan artist Michael Walsh, highlights the life and work of the 2014 Governor's Awardee for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts & Humanities.

Ron Senungetuk is an Alaskan Inupiat who grew up along the Bering Sea in Wales, the most western point on the American mainland. Retired from academics, he continues to be an active, vibrant artist living in picturesque Homer, Alaska. Ron is regarded as Alaska's foremost living Native artist and founded the Native Arts Center while he was chair of the art department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for 30 years. His pieces are carved and colored wood that build on the traditions if the Bering Sea people. Ron is the major force behind the resurgence of contemporary native art in Alaska. He has stimulated & supported the careers of numerous native artists who have gained renown in their own right.


Ron Senungetuk
CDC Artist

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16 June 2015

Community Disaster In Chernobyl

Graffiti near what was once Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Another haunting story of a community’s struggle as a result of disaster began April 26, 1986 when nuclear reactor No. 4 exploded in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The following day, in Pripyat, a small town built for Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers and their families, people were forced to abandon the life they once knew for fear of radiation poisoning. The nuclear explosion created a radioactive cloud that blanketed Pripyat and nearby towns.

The Chernobyl nuclear reactor fire burned for thirty days. Some would describe it as a glowing orb, almost beautiful. At first, there was no mention of the explosion from the Soviet government. It wasn’t until the following day that 1,100 buses were ordered to evacuate Pripyat. 100,000 workers and their families left their personal belongings, no matter how valuable, for fear of contamination.

One can hardly imagine what was going on in the minds of these victims after the explosion. Many feared disease and painful death through radiation poisoning. Those that worked to clean up the reactors died agonizing deaths. It was reported in some cases organs disintegrated, limbs developed sores and body parts just became separated from the victim’s bodies.

Copyright Jan Smith
from Visual News, Online

After the evacuation, houses and belongings were left untouched for  nearly twenty years. The modern day visitor can capture a glimpse of how life was before the nuclear meltdown. Unknown Ukrainian artists have painted dark silhouettes of children on these abandoned buildings. The black figures haunt the old buildings of Chernobyl. Jan Smith captures these ghostly memories through her photographic images. Check them out here: http://www.smithjan.com/portfolio.html
A reader might wonder how these victims fair today after enduring such a sudden catastrophe. Those that are alive today retell their stories. “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of the Nuclear Disaster” by Svetlana Alexievich is a book capturing their experiences.
Lost Dwelling Near Chernobyl
As I was researching the events surrounding Chernobyl I came across an article discussing the effects of radiation on the surrounding forests. Insects, microbes and fungi are among some of the vital ingredients in forest decomposition. Twenty years later, environmentalists have found trees in forests around Chernobyl have not properly decayed. 
It wasn’t just the people so drastically effected by the nuclear explosion. It was the natural environment and the soviet economy that suffered, as well. The effects have lasted twenty years and will continue. Retelling stories and connecting with other survivors has helped victims of Chernobyl cope. What can we do for the natural environment that was also a victim to radiation poisoning?  Do we let it be? Do we try to restore it?

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