New Alaska Airlines Center artwork depicts a myth and the sun

A new art piece in front of the Alaska Airlines Center, “Lucerna,” requires a few more details and touch-ups before it is finished for viewing. The piece is anticipated to be completed by the end of October.

New York based artist Osman Akan’s art piece, Lucerna, being installed in front of the Alaska Airlines Center. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

New York City-based artist, Osman Akan, was chosen to be the featured artist for the new project. The large sculpture still needs some extra welding, a paint job and glass before it is complete.

The design was inspired by Alaskan themes, both of the state and of UAA. While Akan said there were many ideas for the design of the sculpture, the first idea he said was the motion of the sun in the north.

“If you were to think, or visualize it, what the sun is doing all year long in [mid-year] months, every day it goes from one side to the other side, and that, around the world it just generates a ring, let’s call it,” Akan said. “In places like New York, or Istanbul, or Vienna, it goes above you more like a bridge. In the north, like in Anchorage, that ring starts slanting down, wherein the month of January the ring goes up just a little bit because you barely see the sun. So [the sculpture’s] curves correspond to a stylized version of the months.”

Placed outside the doors of the arena where many Seawolf athletic competitions are held, the second inspiration Akan had for the sculpture was UAA’s own mascot: the mythical Seawolf.

“It’s a Seawolf. [I’m] not really thinking of a furry creature, but something more like a fish or a serpent. So that was partly the idea of placing the glass panels in opposing kind of structures, where they kind of look like scales,” Akan said.

If viewing the sculpture at a certain angle, the sides of the arches are morphed as four lines, similar to the white lines visible on both sides of Spirit the Seawolf’s head. The glass in the center of the sculpture will be lit with green and gold lights.

“These are, obviously, subtle, metaphoric layers that one may think of it this way, one may not at all. So that’s fine, I think that’s how an artwork becomes more complex,” Akan said. “Some people will like the curves, some people will like the glass, some people will hate the whole thing. This is how it goes.”

Chris McConnell, a project manager for UAA’s Facilities, Planning and Construction explained the process of choosing Akan to create the new art on campus.

“We get a committee and use the State Council of the Arts to help us facilitate a process. They develop a proposal and get a whole bunch of information from all these artists, who are interested in building the artwork, based on the constraints of the site,” McConnell said. “It’s a pretty extensive process. We had over 100 artists submit.”

Akan was chosen after the process of reviewing and refining, as McConnell said, but is no newcomer to the state of Alaska. Akan’s first sculpture featured in Alaska, “Fragmenta,” was completed outside of the Anchorage State Crime Detection Laboratory in the late summer of 2012.

The money for Lucerna was set aside from the funding for the Alaska Airlines Center back when the arena was under construction. The project is part of the Percent for Art in Public Places program, the same program that commissioned the American lion statue by UAA’s Natural Sciences Building and “Inflorescence,” the sculpture in front of the ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building.

The Alaska Legislature passed the Percent for Art in Public Places statute in 1975, “requiring the expenditure of one percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork,” as stated in the Alaska State Council on the Arts website.

“The whole goal is to bring more art into our communities,” McConnell said on Percent for Art. “I think it’s a very good program. But there are obvious questions, because of the times we’re in, like, ‘why are we spending on art?’ We’re spending on it because this is the capital appropriation from the G.O. bond that was approved how ever many years ago [for the AAC].”

More of Akan’s art, as well as more pictures of his vision of Lucerna, can be viewed at http://www.osmanakan.com/Pages/Artwork.htm.