Spenard Tattoo cultivates safe space for Anchorage’s diverse art scene
On a Thursday night at Spenard Tattoo, instead of closing up shop at 7 p.m., owner Kevin Harden keeps the doors open. He brings out pizza and adult beverages and uses the shop’s iMac to play some music. What appears to be the obvious makings of a party soon reveals itself as much more than that.
Anchorage Drink and Draw is a social club held at the tattoo shop on Spenard Road. The monthly drawing session starts at close of business and continues until 11 p.m. Its guest list includes a mix of artists from the Anchorage area.
Harden describes Anchorage as “an art-rich community” and says Drink and Draw has seen growth in the year that it’s been hosted in town. At least 20 artists were in attendance at Thursday’s event.
Anchorage resident Lee Post joined Drink and Draw nine months ago. Post, who works as a juvenile probation officer for the state, says art is a side job.
Having drawn a comic strip for the Anchorage Press and commissioned illustrations for children’s books, advertising and nonprofit organizations, Post’s alter-ego artist is considered accomplished in the community.
Usually, Post says, the illustrators only group with the illustrators, the tattoo artists only talk shop amongst each other and Anchorage’s community of artists can feel a little exclusive.
“There’s different groups of artists that don’t really mix,” said Post. “And I don’t think it’s territory. It’s just if you are a graphic artist, you hang out with graphic artists.”
But spread out among the tables and chairs at Thursday’s Drink and Draw were sketchers, illustrators and hobbyists, among other types. Even Anchorage artist Duke Russell, known for his scenic art and stage prop creations, made an appearance.
Post says Anchorage has specific art groups, like the Graphic Arts Guild, and even has other drawing events at galleries. But he says Spenard’s gathering is different.
“This is the first one where it’s people just being able to hang out without the territory,” Post said of Drink and Draw. “We can socialize versus trying to impress each other or show off.”
The merging of art terrain is only one of the goals Harden has. He’s also hoping that artists like Post and Russell who have had success can share the wealth.
“There’s a lot of opportunities in Alaska, especially Anchorage, to show off your artwork,” said Harden, citing coffeehouses, art houses around town and First Fridays as prime retail space. “But, at the same time, as the average artist on the street, being able to figure out how to get their stuff from the street to the wall — that’s what I’m still confused about.”
He’s hoping that gathering a variety of artists under one roof will create opportunity for others to get noticed, which will hopefully lead to a way for all to profit.
So far, Post says, Harden’s hunch is right. He recently was able to showcase his art on t-shirts at show downtown at Bailiwick.
“Part of the reason why I did a limited run of t-shirts is talking to Kevin, talking to a few people here, talking to people who had contacts with screen printers,” Post said. “And basically realizing the barrier for doing that was really low.”
Post paid it forward by bringing contact stickers to Thursday’s event to hand out to the other artists — a small gesture to demonstrate Drink and Draw is not just a social club but also fits Harden’s vision as a calling card for the Anchorage art community.
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