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July Director's Journal

July 20, 2020

"I miss our Sitka people," Facilities and Ecology Manager Bob Langan shares with me, reflecting on this silent summer and how it feels to be on campus. "As a team, we put in all of this work to prepare for workshop season, from creating the catalog to caring for the grounds to 50th anniversary celebration planning. There's still activity on campus... but there's also an empty feeling."

As Bob bears witness to this year's upheaval, I am reminded of a Dungeness crab I watched earlier in the week. It was on its back on the shoreline struggling to right itself, legs flailing but finding no traction. When the incoming tide rushed over it, I rooted for the crab to swim away free. Instead when the water receded the crab was still there, flipped right-side up and shell-shocked. Then, with a few survivalist scrapes of its claws, it buried itself in the sand just as the next wave hit.

I empathize with the crab and envy its exoskeleton. As a nonprofit director during a pandemic that is surging like a king tide, I find myself scrambling to comprehend the daily COVID-19 casualties and consequences and determine which way is up. The temptation to hunker down in my shell is visceral.

"What we have to do as a community, as a state, as a country... we have to find ways to keep moving toward all the good places we were heading," I lift my head up out of the sand just far enough to listen as Bob continues. "It's impressive to watch our team work together and shapeshift on a daily basis to keep Sitka on a forward course. Our team gives me great hope."


Before and after: Bob Langan and Brie Schettle are seizing the moment to resurface all 40 of Sitka's studio tables.

Program Manager Tamara Jennings's efforts are one example of Sitka's team in creative action. A new series of virtual workshops taught by experienced online instructors will keep the spirit of summer learning alive at Sitka and will provide working artists and writers with paid teaching opportunities in a difficult year. Watch for more online opportunities to support your favorite instructors and create together as the summer continues.

A talk with Portland-based 2020 Blue Sky Photography Resident Ebenezer Galluzzo, live-streamed last week and moderated by Sitka's Development Director Lisa DeGrace, also challenged me to seek "the divine" in this year's discomfort . Galluzzo's photography explores gender and nature through intimate self-portraiture. His works, which challenge personal and societal assumptions about what is natural and unnatural, are at once disquieting and affirming. In response to a question about where and why Galluzzo augments photographs with gold leaf, he described a process observing his own responses to his images, noticing self-judgement, and applying gold leaf to actively alter his gaze, "transforming something I can't look at into something I can't help but look at."

Image by Ebenezer Galluzzo

Modern dance pioneer Martha Graham described artistic dissatisfaction and the imperative to create in this way:  

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it... You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

With gratitude for this creative, resilient and unresting community of artists, ecologists and crustaceans,


Alison Dennis

Executive Director