An artist from Los Angeles recently spent a week in Togiak to learn how people have lived off the land and thrived in the region. She also enlisted village kids to help her paint a colorful mural.
Artist Lindsay Carron had her hands full in Togiak in late July. As she sketched out a beach landscape on a shipping container in front of the village’s senior center, kids couldn't help but get drawn in.
"I'll call them packs of children because they ramble around town like packs of wolves, and they would come and circle by and get curious and then come back and want to help," Carron said.
Carron gave the kids total artistic freedom over parts of the container and they take full advantage of their space by splashing swatches of color and scrawling their initials across it. Their creativity literally spilled over onto nearby rocks lining the path to the senior center.
Carron was painting in Togiak as artist-in-residence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She’s traveled all over Alaska to wildlife refuges in the Arctic and Yukon Delta to find artistic inspiration. This summer’s trip to Togiak National Wildlife Refuge aimed to bridge cultures and learn more about how Alaska Native people have subsisted there for so long.
"It's that important time to listen to what they have to say in regards to conservation especially because they are the people who have been living in balance with these places for thousands of years," Carron said. "I find it really important to listen to their voices right now."
Carron ate lots of salmon alongside families from this 800-person village, hiked on the tundra and floated upriver on a village-sponsored trip with kids learning about local subsistence traditions. This big-city artist said Togiak taught her a great deal she hopes to convey through the art she’ll finish in the coming months.
"Coming up to these villages allows me to take it day by day and slow down and breathe and be fully present with every experience. I really cherish learning from Native families and how much importance they place on family time and coming together and honor and respect of their elders," Carron said.
Rose Wassillie, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation’s village resource specialist for Togiak, said she loves that Carron’s vivid mural captures the essence of Togiak.
"That mural that Lindsay did is what the community does -- fish," Wassillie said. "And then she put the dry fish on and one of the community members joked with Lindsay and asked her when her dry fish was going to dry so we could have some. That was so cute and then she also put a salmonberry right underneath that, and it's so beautiful."
Carron said she hopes to work with other wildlife refuges in future summers to share more Alaskan stories through art with people down south.
Carron's final artwork inspired by Togiak and its people will be on her website here. The original will go on display at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Dillingham.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-842-2200.