Exploring Juneau, AK with Donna Catotti

I met up with Donna a few days before her show opened. Donna and I had been corresponding for well over year after she invited me to come to Alaska (I met her at the Catharine Lorillard Wolf Art Club’s annual exhibition in New York City) to explore her community of Haines and the vast number of creative people that were born and/or moved here. We spent 5 days in Juneau and she was an excellent tour guide.

Donna Catotti and Cornelia Seckel at the overlook at Mendenhall Glacier Juneau, AK

Donna Catotti and Cornelia Seckel at the overlook at Mendenhall Glacier Juneau, AK

Mendenhall Glacier, 13.6 miles long, is one of many glaciers of the Juneau Icefield, and one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska. As I was sitting on the silt from the glacier it seemed like a lot of beaches I’ve been on and found some beautiful stones that I brought home. I could have sat there all day listening to Nugget Falls, enjoying the mist— so refreshing, cool and sprinkling. I heard many different languages as people took pictures and enjoyed sunbathing. A very long ice float goes by, must be the length of a football field….

Donna and I met with a delightful Park Ranger who spoke with us about the glacier. The glacier loses 400-500 feet a year. The lesson is to do one thing to make the earth greener…. and rewrite the story. The United States Forest Service operates the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center as part of the Tongass National Forest and offers interpretive programs for children and adults. The center is open year-round and receives close to 500,000 visitors each year, many coming by cruise ship in summer. This was the first U.S. Forest Service visitor center built in the nation and dedicated in 1962.


When we left the glacier we drove north as far as we could along Glacier Highway. The road in Juneau is just 40 miles, because the 1,500 square-mile ice field, rugged mountains and ocean land lock Juneau, making it accessible only by air or boat. One person did point out the other alternative was to be born or die in Juneau— another way in and out.

We passed Eagle Beach where many thousands of eagles (the densest population of Bald Eagles in the US) and other wildlife come to feast -and be feasted upon. At the far end of the road we saw The Kensington Mine, an historic underground gold mine, discovered in the mid 1890s and operated till about 1928. In Coeur Alaska Inc. acquired the property renewing operations and at this point over 300 people are employed.

A beautiful ride, a spectacular day seeing gorgeous landscapes. Frankly, I couldn’t stop taking pictures…..

Across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau is Douglas Island 17 x 8 miles (several miles longer and much wider than Manhattan which is 13.4 miles x 2.3 miles). The bridge makes it very accessible to Juneau. Donna and I were heading to the Perseverance Theatre to see Peter and the Starcatcher. As we were early we stopped for a walk along Sandy Beach, created by the tailings from the huge Treadwell gold mine, which produced over 3 million ounces of gold between 1881 and 1922.

This regional theater, founded in 1979 by Molly Smith, is Alaska’s largest professional theater—their mission is to create professional theatre by and for Alaskans. Art Rotch is the current Executive Artistic Director. Subscriptions to productions and a great variety of classes, camps internships and many other educational programs are available in both Anchorage and Juneau. Coming up is The Snow Child which runs in Anchorage, May 25-27, 2018, and in Juneau, June 9-10, 2018. See ptalaska.org for current season. Perseverance Theatre was the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program, a program to assist communities in developing and implementing a plan for expanded arts education in their schools. 300 8th graders benefited from this program. The production of Peter and the Starcatcher was excellent. Acting, staging, directing, choreography, costumes, and sets were all excellent.

Check back there’s much more I’ll be reporting on both at arttimesjournal.com and in this Blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s