The artists have not left Anchorage

Assorted clothing and art was being sold to help benefit the artists. Photo by Daniel Jackson.

 

The MTS Gallery is closing its doors after five years of operation. The gallery was the stomping ground of many local artists. A spot where creative minds could mingle, contemplate both art and current issues, as well as entertain. In other words, it was a community fixture, and it is now being demolished.

Located in one of Anchorage’s oldest neighborhoods, the Mountain View gallery’s closing party aptly titled “The Artists Have Left the Building,” showcased that the artistic space was capable of bringing people together. MTS Gallery was not unsuccessful.

Photo stories featured on the Anchorage Daily News’ website this week’s Northern Light, and a fan-created blog showcasing the gallery’s events display the final show and party. In the pictures, entertainers dance or twirl fire hoops for Anchorage residents; cyclists enjoy a game of bike polo; and artists happily converse before sculptures, paintings and mixed media pieces. The pictures display a simple fact: many people enjoy the arts.

Despite the smiling faces in the photographs, the gallery is closing, and many artists will have to find an alternative collaborative site of operation. Artists who found a home at the MTS Gallery are being dispersed unevenly throughout Anchorage; a blow to the art community.

The art community, however, has grown in Anchorage over the past decade. More people than ever are enjoying the city’s First Friday events. Think of it like joining a book club. Every month, people with similar interests gather to discuss what they like and didn’t like about a book. But instead of seeing the same familiar faces after each read novel, community members may mingle before a painting, sipping wine and nibbling cheese, with a complete stranger. A wonderful aspect of this mingling is that people are sharing contrasting ideas with a decent level civility. So, you may not like the same pieces of art that another attendee found fascinating, but at least there is interaction.

Art helps people break out of their comfort zones. Both for the artist and the viewer, it encourages a departure from one’s normal roles and perspectives through communication in loosely or unregulated mediums. Creative works can help foster dialogue in an increasingly segmented society.Delivering to a niche community is not art at its best, rather bringing people of different creeds together for discussion and contemplation is what makes a healthy art community. And in that sense, MTS was a terrific success.

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Thus, because an important neighborhood gallery is closing residents should now more than ever attend and support other art galleries around town. If we, the dedicated, sustain our promotion of the arts and continue to spread the word about this growing collective then there is still hope. The endorsement of art is proof to local artists—who come from all walks of life—that their dedication to their chosen craft is appreciated and needed.

Notable galleries located around Anchorage (most being in the proximity of downtown) that will likely be passed the baton include the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sevigny Studio, Cyrano’s Off Center Playhouse and Anchorage Museum among others. These entities have long participated in the monthly First Friday, but it is safe to say that MTS went above and beyond its fellow galleries.

MTS was a space for theater, music, film and various forms of fine art. The gallery housed numerous types of “artists” for its five years of operation.

The reason MTS Gallery is closing is because the Community Land Trust decided to break their partnership with the Arts Center and sell the land to the Special Olympics. Unfortunately for the gallery, it is hard to generate much of a public outcry against land being used for a meaningful cause like the Special Olympics. Why they chose to evict an entire arts community, however, remains unclear, as it wasn’t the only available land for the Special Olympics in Mountain View.

Hopefully, the art community will continue to grow, and Mountain View can find space for a future arts center. If MTS Gallery’s closing party was any indication, a large number of Anchorage residents would appreciate continued growth in the arts.