Fort Seward's new art piece aims to slow sands of time


One of Haines’ newest public art pieces is an interactive work that combines glass, steel, stone and even the contemplative sands of time.

The piece, called “Time Out,” was unveiled last week at the Fort Seward Sculpture Garden, the eclectic outdoor art space in the old barracks foundation at the decommissioned fort.

The concept is elegant north-woods simplicity: a stone bench faces the ruins of an old barracks window frame, into which is built a steel framework with an hourglass filled with granules of black sand from nearby Iron Mountain.

The viewer turns a crank, flipping the hourglass and for the next three minutes and 33 seconds, there’s time to contemplate life, love and local basketball scores.

There are now 11 art installations at the Sculpture Garden, which was created in 2014 with a grant from the ArtPlace America Foundation to provide the community with interpretive art on the site overlooking the area’s blue-gray waters.

Two new installations were unveiled last week. Artist Megan Morehouse debuted “Chilkat River Flats,” a mosaic of mussel shells and driftwood she has found on the beach.

“Time Out” is the brainchild of Debra Schnabel, executive director of the Haines Chamber of Commerce, who came up with the concept while she assisted in a cleanup of the area.

“I saw the window in the rock and it came to me: wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit in front of the window, look through and see Mount Ripinsky and just contemplate things? You know, anything,” she said.

Schnabel approached Carol Tuynman, the creative director of the Alaska Arts Confluence, who was impressed with the idea. “We’re looking for site-based art,” Tuynam said of the outdoor space at Fort Seward. “Taking a window frame and envisioning a meditative space is just brilliant.”

Tuynman told Schnabel: “This can be done. I know just who to talk to.”

Enter Rhys Williams and Gene Kennedy.

Williams is on the board of the arts confluence. He’s also an expert glassblower. When asked how long it took him to create the work’s hourglass, the veteran artist joked, “Oh, about 40 years.”

And Kennedy?

“I’m a steel guy,” he said. “Contraptions are what I’m all about.”

On a recent day, with the wind blowing and the mid-November sun weak and skittish, the artists talked about their work, which was completed with a $3,000 local donation.

Kennedy, a 66-year-old local plumber, said he spent 50 hours shaping the frame and hooking up the crank, which came from an old sawmill.

As he talked, his mixed-breed dog named Happy sat on the stone bench, not looking at the art, but straight out at the glistening Lynn Canal waters.

Someone turned the handle on the crank and the black sand from Klukwan slowly slipped through the glass portal.

Schnabel is pleased to see her concept come to life. But she had actually imagined something a bit different: enough sand to last eight minutes.

But Kennedy explained that the sand would move too slowly to see.

So Schnabel demurred.

“I thought eight minutes is what it would take to reach a state of contemplation, but he was looking at it more like a show.”


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