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#StickFigureAK coffee table book: Art & inclusivity go hand-in-hand

By Sierra Starks Photojournalist: Kenneth Kulovany - 10:22 AM December 15, 2015

Danny Parish’s art of choice is stained glass.

“When I do stained glass, I’m an artist,” Parish said. “I have a piece of stained glass in every window of my house.”

Parish usually keeps his artwork confined to the walls of his home. But soon, one of Parish’s newest creations — a stick figure made out of fish and a cutout of his head — could grace the coffee tables of homes everywhere.

Earlier this year, The Arc of Anchorage put out a call to Alaskans to put their own twist on the simple stick figure drawing. The rules were simple, snap a photo of the creation and post it to social media with the #StickFigureAK hashtag. During the course of the contest, The Arc received 200 submissions.

“We had entries all the way from Barrow, down to Southeast, around to Homer — everywhere,” said Naomi Hodawanus with The Arc of Anchorage. “Our top winner is actually from Nome.”

The top 100 entries, determined by how many votes the photo received online, were printed in a coffee table book, “#StickFigureAK: The Print Collective.”

The Arc of Anchorage serves individuals in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But the #StickFigureAK campaign speaks to everyone’s ability to create, says Hodawanus.

“We each have something to say,” she said. “And I think it’s important to say, no matter what your ability is, we think that you’re important, we think you’re valuable.”

At Sparc, a program of The Arc that serves as a visual arts studio, that message of inclusivity carries over.

“Whether we create words, or sounds or movements, we’re all creating something,” said Hodawanus. “And we’re telling about who we are when we do that.”

At Sparc, Hodawanus says though the medium may vary, the creativity knows no bounds. She gave the example of local artist Raymond Severance, whose paintings tell the story of his history that he can’t verbally articulate.

“It’s really important for someone, for example, if they have limited language capability, maybe they have trouble creating words, but they can create visually to communicate something about who they are,” said Hodawanus.

Last year, The Arc of Anchorage relocated Sparc to a space in downtown Anchorage. Parish, who’s worked for The Arc for 26 years, says the move to an area of town with a lot of foot traffic was intentional.

“The people that we provide support to should be — as you, as I, as anyone else — should have access to our whole community,” said Parish. “Not just services being provided to them … but be in the community where they’re a part of it.”

Having dropped in to Sparc for a few classes on the art of staining glass, Parish says he sees the joy of creativity in everyone using the space, whether they have a disability or not.

“I get to see a lot of happy people,” he said. “That, really, it’s all about art that makes them happy.”

Parish says he’s glad he was able to express himself in a book that carries a message of inclusivity — a message with the potential to reach more than just Alaska.

#StickFigureAK: The Print Collective is available for purchase at Sparc, located at 425 D St., or online.

Contact Sierra Starks at sstarks@ktva.com and on Facebook and Twitter, @SStarksKTVA

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