"What's special about these pieces is that each one of them is calling out to or connecting to exhibit cultural connection items," museum director Alicia Drabek said.
Bruce Nelson studied an intricately-carved wooden hook belonging to the museum and then painted a halibut going after that hook with a bit of bait attached. His painting hangs in the gallery and the museum's fishhook is next to it in a display case.
Linda Lyons, who has connections to Karluk and spent time around the community of Larsen Bay at Uyak Bay. She painted a view of the bay as scene from the site of an ancient Alutiiq village. Several items from that site are displayed next to Lyons' painting.
Helen Simeonoff, who grew up in Afognak, has two pieces in the gallery.
"Most of her paintings represent symbols or individuals or places that are significant to the Alutiiq people," Drabek said. "So we have several of her paintings, one of her grandmother with different cultural symbols surrounding her calling out her connection to Afognak."
Drabek said the museum has been acquiring contemporary art through grants from the Rasmuson Foundation, and pieces in the new exhibit were collected over several years.
Lyons' painting is the most recent acquisition.
"We wanted to highlight that and celebrate that fact that we've had this program and it's enabled us to build our contemporary art collection, and what's special particularly about these three is their connection to our collections," Drabek said. "It's not just contemporary art, but it's contemporary art that's informed by Alutiiq collections."
The open house this year took on a different look.
"We generally have had open houses where it's table-and-chair seating and more of a PowerPoint presentation, but because we're a museum and we have a beautiful gallery and we have several new exhibits, we wanted to let people have the opportunity to celebrate that," Drabek said.
At the open house, attendees explored the galleries and the labs in back. Door prizes were given out and food was offered.
The museum also announced acquisition of a workshop above the museum.
"We have always been offering classes, different cultural arts classes, and just in the last year have started doing language outreach workshops," Drabek said.
The programs have used various venues around town, but the new room upstairs means those can happen in the museum's own space.
"While that's been phenomenal, people have participated, it's nice that we have one space where people can consistently know to come to," Drabek said.
The additional space also includes offices for four of the museum's staff, which they needed because the staff space was overcrowded, Drabek said.
Contact Julie Herrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.