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Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Tennys Owens made Anchorage her canvas

By John Tracy 5:37 PM December 15, 2016

Thursday, Anchorage’s premier art gallery Artique closed it’s doors for the last time, after 45 years in business.

Artique is the love child of owner Tennys Owens.

If the modern history of Anchorage could be painted on canvas, Tennys Owens and her husband, Tom, would be primary colors. The Air Force sent the young couple to Alaska in 1967; Tom Owens as a JAG attorney and Tennys Owens as an entrepreneur in the making.

In 1971 she opened a 900 square foot space in Anchorage’s Central Building, as the first real gallery where Alaska artists could display their work.

Tennys Owens is not an artist herself, but if you’ve been in Anchorage for any length of time you’ve seen her work.

She started print for a purpose and has raised money for more than a hundred causes over the years, from breast cancer awareness to the Anchorage Symphony. She sold prints to raise money for the fountains at the Loussac Library for Alaska’s silver anniversary, just as she’s commemorated every significant state anniversary from Alaska’s 50th to Anchorage’s centennial.

Former mayor Rick Mystrom put her in charge of Anchorage’s millennium celebration. Mystrom told me that if you enjoy Anchorage’s 4th of July parade, thank Tennys Owens, who resurrected the parade as a way to mark the millennium.

Tennys Owens says you can trace the history of her gallery, with the arc of the oil industry.

She started Artique two years after the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay.

As oil boomed, so did the art community and when it busted in the 80s, 90 percent of Anchorage’s art galleries disappeared with the economy. Tennys Owens says Artique only survived because she supported it with revenue from another business.

Staring into the face of another downturn, perhaps deeper and longer than anything we’ve seen before, Tennys Owens says now seems like the right time to move on.

Economists use statistics to predict the future. But I’d say you probably can’t do much better than the instincts of Tennys Owens.

She says she hasn’t decided what she’ll do next, but says she’s not leaving Anchorage — and that’s good for all of us.

Thank you Tennys Owens, and your devoted staff, for making Anchorage richer and more vibrant than it could have ever been without you.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.

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