‘Sierra’s Designs’: An art show with a greater purpose

Alaska Behavioral Health is hosting an alcohol-free event, “Sierra’s Designs” at the Power Center on November 4 from 5-7PM.

Fall Horned Goddess by Sierra Rae Parker. Courtesy of Whirling Rainbow.

There are so many important issues that are not being discussed where we are dealing with life or death. Well, someone is starting the conversation about alcoholism and the grief of parents who lose a child.

Suraj Holzworth lost her daughter Sierra Parker to alcoholism this year and decided to share her story.

Sierra was an artist who created passionately. She used her art as a beautiful form of her own expression and was a creative genius, said her mother. She channeled her energy into all sorts of mediums such as ink, watercolor, acrylics, digital design and illustration.

Sierra learned her passion for art from her mother. Holzworth said, “I’m an artist myself and from a very young age I gave her tons of boxes of art supplies, and she and I would really spend all our time bonding through art. She started doing art when she was 2 or 3 years old.”

Art was the passion of Sierra’s life. She continued on her artist journey at a university in Australia and lived abroad for 6 years. But she came back home to Anchorage and showed the community her passion. 

“She worked in Anchorage as a graphic artist for Microcom and then had her own freelance business as well called Spade Heart Arts and worked for a lot of different clients from around the world. We run a nonprofit organization, so she was our main graphic artist doing all the art for our foundation as well as other organizations she donated time to throughout Anchorage.”

Sierra had a charitable heart, volunteering with eight organizations in Anchorage, but Seeds of Change had to be her favorite.

“When she took her wings in January, just a few months later, I called Seeds of Change and explained what happened and that I would like to do a fundraising art show in her honor.”

Holzworth and Seeds of Change, along with other organizations have all been working together on creating an art show that will be presented at the Power Center on Nov. 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. All the artwork was created by Sierra throughout her life.

Funds will be raised for the Seeds of Change, a section of Alaska Behavioral Health.

The purpose of this show is to raise awareness of mental health issues in youth, particularly substance addiction and to help youth know that they have other options for when life gets a little too much.

“Alcoholism is the most masked over problem in our culture. It is so promoted in everything and every place and every movie as a way of coping. It only masks the problem; it doesn’t solve the problem. There are more functional ways to detract from what’s going on, whether it be anxiety or trauma.” said Holzworth.

A specialist at Providence hospital informed Holzworth that they’ve seen a 60% percentage rise from  2018 to 2022 in the number of people between the ages of 26 and 33 that are getting cirrhosis of the liver.

If Sierra would have gotten help sooner, she probably would have been a candidate for a liver transplant, said Holzworth. 

“But we can’t go back in time. We can all say would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, oughta, but it’s for young people to get the sobering news that this isn’t the solution.”

Organizing this art show meant so much more for Holzworth. “It's one way that I can deal with a broken heart and try to save other parents from my nightmare,” she said.

Holzworth shared with me that this has been her path of healing though there is little help for grieving parents. She said, everyone shies away from grieving parents, worrying of making the situation worse or just not knowing what to say or do. Holzworth is a therapist and has noticed that even grief coaches don’t cover parental bereavement.

“I have had to do many things for my own process in this journey and one of them is to connect with the thing that we loved most together which is art … I’m having a chance to learn more about her through this even though we see her art all the time, I’ve seen most of the pieces. There’s some I’ve never seen and that’s been a beautiful discovery for me.”

This exhibit is about more than just the art. It is about the woman behind them. It is about the celebration of Sierra’s life through all of her creative expression.

“She’s my superhero, she’s always going to be my superhero.”