AK: Juneau business showcases diverse artists’ work in postcard contest

“They Are Always With Us” by Rob Roys (Courtesy of Kindred Post)

Kindred Post, a post office, gift shop and gathering space in downtown Juneau, has selected 10 art submissions to print on 1,000 postcards. The selections are from around the state, and from a diversity of artists.

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Kindred Post’s sidewalk sandwich board reads: stamps, boxes, shipping services, handmade and Alaskan made gifts and good vibes. An image of a woman wearing an American flag hijab that reads “We The People” is in the storefront, and just inside is a hoodie that reads “Social Justice Hustle.”

Kindred Post owner Christy Namee Eriksen. (Photo by Scott Burton/KTOO)

“So when we first started Kindred Post I’d had this dream to fill it with local art,” artist and writer Christy Namee Eriksen said.

Eriksen has owned the business for 3 years. Beyond post officey stuff, it’s known for selling artful jewelry, happening First Friday art gatherings and “Tiny Post Office” concerts.

“People come here every day to buy postcard stamps and they’re always looking for postcards,” Eriksen said.

Eriksen had already tapped some of Juneau’s usual suspects for art, so a contest seemed in order. And it had a bonus.

“We’d be able to learn what type of art and artists might be out there that we weren’t familiar with already, and we opened it up state wide,” Eriksen said.

250 submissions came in between July and August.

Among the 10 winners is Tom Chung who teaches art at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The image is of him riding shirtless on a moose in front of the backdrop of an Alaskan wilderness.

“I don’t see representations very often of Asian males, and so I use myself because it’s a little bit of an act of rebelling and I guess that I believe I live in a culture that says I am not desirable or not beautiful, and so I place myself in these sort of images of desirability or masculinity to kind of rebel against that,” Chung said.

“Moose Rider” by Thomas Chung (Courtesy Kindred Post)

Crystal Worl is a Juneau-based mixed media artist and business owner that works in paint and fashion design.

“I submitted six pieces and the one they selected is called “White Raven,” Worl said. “I like to acknowledge my Tlingit side using formline, and then I also like to acknowledge my Athabascan side through putting beadwork, floral patterns in my paintings. This one has a seaweed pattern that looks like a growing stem…. There’s a moon below Raven. You get the feeling that you’re looking up into the sky at Raven, and this is coming down and it feels also like you’re under water.”

Additional winning images include a humpback whale in watercolor, a fox under the aurora, an image of a hand-embroidered umbrella. Some of the winning artists’ names are recognizable, some not—including a kid’s marker drawing of a large green dinosaur-like beast sort of hugging the Kindred Post store.

Having a diversity of artists is important to store owner Eriksen who studied social justice in college and co-founded a poetry slam in Juneau that is known for inclusiveness and empowering voice.

Kindred Post is not your average post office. (Photo by Scott Burton)

“I had a equity clause built into the competition,” Eriksen said. “So we wanted to prioritize artists who have otherwise have had social marginalization, and maybe not have had as much access to artistic opportunities as others.

Eriksen, her staff and other community members judged.

“So we would give preference to artists who self-identified as either a woman, LGBTQ, a person of color or an indigenous person, artists who are experiencing a developmental disability, or just a disability,” Eriksen said.

“I thought that was really great, I noticed that,” Chung said. “And we were allowed to write a little comment with our submission and I wrote I am a gay person of color that also lives with a disability. And it’s not just I guess to give a leg up to people that might need a little more encouraging, but also being inclusive to all sorts of diversity it expands the range of viewpoints that can be shared.”

“Our success is tied to the success of our neighborhood, of our city, of our community,” Eriksen said. “And so if you have that type of commitment to the place or the people that you belong to, then the question for me would be why would you not be committed to social justice? Why would you not want to raise up and work towards equality for all of its members?”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an erroneous mis-attribution of a quote.