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Introducing Bayla Laks


Our VISTA Volunteer, Bayla, teaching an art class

Some of you may already know our fantastic VISTA volunteer, Bayla. For those of you who don’t, we wanted to take some time to introduce you to her. Bayla received her BFA from The Hartford Art School in Connecticut with a major in Illustration and a minor in Art History. In addition to her studies in Hartford, Bayla has studied in Italy, Mexico, and at the Camberwell College of Arts at the University of Arts London. Bayla also has extensive experience working with students of all ages teaching classes such as painting, drawing, printmaking, and bookbinding. Bayla’s artwork has been displayed in numerous galleries and exhibits, and has been featured on the covers of music albums and films. To see more of her stunning artwork you can visit her website here.

Bayla joined us at the Fine Arts Camp in August as our VISTA volunteer and has been working hard to coordinate and expand our Yaw After School Art program. In addition to her administrative work on the program, Bayla will be teaching a class for our second session called Watercolor Painting Sea Life & Specimen, which will take place at the Sitka Sound Science Center. We decided to ask Bayla a few questions about her early experiences with art and why she thinks it is so important for children to be exposed to the arts at an early age.

Q: How did you get started as an artist?

A: I first started drawing as a toddler, making illustrated books and stories that my parents would have to write the words in for me.

Q: What did you find inspiring about art when you were a kid?

A: As a kid I definitely loved painting and drawing, but mostly it was a way to occupy myself when I was having trouble sitting still. This was often, but also good practice. When I started being able to draw things the way I saw them in my head, I was inspired to keep working and keep getting better.

Q: Why did you pick the Science Center as a teaching location?

A: I picked the Science Center as a teaching location because when I first went inside, I was personally inspired to paint and draw the animals in the tanks, as well as the extensive collection of specimen. When I was designing my upcoming class for the After School Art Program, I thought to myself, “what better way to combine art and local environmental education?!” I wanted to teach a watercolor class and felt the Science Center would be an excellent theme to base the class structure around.

Q: What is your favorite part about working with kids?

A: When I was young I had many influential and inspiring artists teaching and guiding me. I am always still learning, but its nice to be able to pass on what I know and help guide beginning artists. My favorite part is always being surprised by the incredible work kids are capable of.

Q: What is your message to young people about art?

A: I believe successful art comes from practice. Talent is great, but at the end of the day, practice is what makes the difference, so keep working at it, no matter how good you get!

Q: Why did you choose illustration as your focus? 

A: I chose to study Illustration in school because I appreciated the narrative, story telling aspect, as well as the opportunity for collaboration with writers.

Q: Why is it so important for children to be exposed to art at an early age?

It is important for kids to be exposed to art from an early age because the creative process contributes to a child’s development. Art promotes communication skills, problem solving, self expression,self confidence, self discipline, stimulates the imagination, develops fine tuned motor skills, and much much more.


Sitka Fest Wrap-Up


Sitka Fest has been in full swing all summer and is now winding down. Over forty public events have passed in a blur of activity. Last week, when Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori toured campus, I described Sitka Fest as a remarkable collection of events created by a diverse range of campus partners. I pointed to various buildings to make my point. “The Sitka Summer Music Festival is there in Stevenson, Island Institute over by Yaw Chapel, Sitka Sound Science Center down in the Deco building, the octagon building there is the SJ museum, oldest building here, fine arts camp takes place all over…”  “It’s a Chautauqua,” she said. “Remember the 19th century tradition of folks getting together to make shift tent revival meetings to hear concerts, study literature and sing together?” Exactly right. She got the spirit of our collective endeavor exactly right.


Sitka Summer Music Festival musicians play a special concert for Elementary Fine Arts Campers.

It is always a bittersweet to finish up a festival, like the end of a ten-week party! So let’s look at the humorous side of things. Below is a shorthand guide to Sitka Fest lingo, so when you come to campus, you’ll what everyone’s talking about:

Bach’s Lunch—a free Sitka Summer Music Festival lunchtime concert.

Art Shares—Free, nightly performances by faculty and students held during Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

JOWF (jou-f)—Jazz on the Waterfront, a benefit dinner and concert featuring a 20-piece big band.

SFAC (ess-FAK)–Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

ZB Bach—Code for “Zuill Bailey is giving an impromptu recital of Bach cello suites, get seats quick.”

Island Resiliency—The Island Institute’s annual gathering of writers.

Native Jazz—Concerts and worships celebrating the “native” in all of us.

Dee Daniels—the greatest jazz singer of her generation is HERE.

TEDx—Brief talks on “ideas worth spreading.” Google TEDxSitka.

The Fellows—An immensely talented group of Sitka Fellows, all under-30, in residence on campus for two months.

Work Crew—Interns that arrive in July to work on restoring the campus.

Seafood Fest—The biggest party of the summer, fish head toss anyone?

Paths—Paths Across the Pacific, scientists and scholars coming together to debate if and how humans migrated across the world’s oceans

Seussical—The musical performed by the Musical Theater Camp. Last year it was “Birdie.”

See you next year.

-Paul Cox, Director of Sitka Fest

Seussical the Musical!


The young artists of the second annual SFAC Musical Theater Camp present Seussical (the musical), at the Sitka Performing Arts Center, Friday, July 26 (7 pm) and Saturday, July 27, (2 pm and 7 pm). Twenty-eight performers representing ten Alaskan communities and five states come together to work intensively for two weeks with theater and music faculty led by director WT McRae. McRae, an artist-teacher from the New Victory Theater in New York City teaches classes in theater technique, vocal training and stage etiquette, in addition overseeing rehearsals of Seussical.


Musical Theater campers hard at work on their production of Seussical the Musical

Final performances are fully staged and include a pit orchestra led by Andrew Hames and a professional lighting and sound design created by Jonathan “J” Bradely and a technical crew made up of theater professionals and students. Admission for all evening performances: $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors; Matinée performances: $20 adults; $10 special prices for children and seniors. Free admission for kids under 5 at all performances. All ticket proceeds go toward supporting the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Tickets are available at Old Harbor Books and at the door.

Intended for adults and children alike, Seussical is based on a number of Dr. Seuss books, including The Cat in the HatGreen Eggs and HamHorton Hears a Who! Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, If I Ran the Circus, andGetting to Solla Sollew, among others. Created by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), the show opened on Broadway in 2000. Making its Sitka debut, the fast paced, 90-minute show is narrated by “The Cat in the Hat,” who guides the audience through a tale of spiraling mischief, adventure, friendship and those surreal life lessons.


The Whos of Whoville call out to Horton for help

In the story, Horton, a loving elephant, discovers an entire world of Whos on a single speck of dust, including Jojo, a Who child, who has been sent off to military school for thinking “too many thinks.” Meanwhile, Mayzie La Bird, being a very irresponsible individual, leaves Horton to safeguard a lonely egg for an unpredictable amount of time. Throughout the story, Horton must protect his speck of dust, the egg and himself from dangers, poachers, distractions and cynics. He comes to rely on his gallant and dedicated friend, Miss Gertrude McFuzz. Through his adventures, Horton discovers the power of trust, friendship, faith and a strong community.



Sitka Fest presents two major public events during the long weekend of July 17 -21. On Saturday (July 20), the second annual TEDxSitka returns to the Odess Theater in Allen Hall from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Eleven speakers from throughout the U.S. come together for an afternoon of short, compelling talks on topics ranging from Tlingit armor construction to the cultural impact of digital technology. Then on Sunday (July 21) internationally-acclaimed jazz vocalist Dee Daniels along with vocalist Charenee Wade and the Native Jazz Trio present a concert at the Sitka Performing Arts Center at 7:00 pm. Tickets for both events are on sale at Old Harbor Books: TEDxSitka tickets are $25; Dee Daniels, $20; $15 senior/students.

TEDxSitka: Saturday, July 20, 1 pm – 6 pm.

8644_400402733409177_911154634_nTEDxSitka 2013 is inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This year’s speakers embody the spirit of Emerson’s trailblazer and include: Alaskan Native Artist Tommy Joseph; Camas Davis, founder of the Portland Meat Collective, Vietnamese-American author lê thi diem thúy, community organizer Ray Friedlander, clown and arts educator W.T. McRae, Steve Grody, author of Graffiti LA, guitarist/composer Benjamin Seretan, art critic Jarrett Moran, Harvard Design and Technology fellow Christian Ervin, carillonneur (ringer of church bells) and painter Julie Zhu and music historian Paul Cox. [Complete list of bios and talk titles attached to this document].

TEDxSitka takes place at the Odess Theater in Allen Hall at SJ. Doors open at 12:30 pm, talks begin at 1:00 pm. Each talk lasts less than 18 minutes. In addition, two TED talk videos will also be shown: Rita Pierson’s “Every Kid Needs a Champion” and Larry Lessig’s “We the People, and the Republic We Must Reclaim.” Snacks and beverages will be available during breaks. A wine and cheese reception follows at 6:00 pm. Sponsors include Allen Marine Tours, Evergreen Natural Foods, Larkspur Café and Old Harbor Books.

What is TED?

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Started as a four-day conference in California twenty-five years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for less than 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. TEDx events are independently organized programs licensed by the TED organization. Videos from last year’s sold-out TEDxSitka event are available on the TED YouTube channel; collectively they have received over 8,000 views since last August.

Dee Daniels Jazz Concert: July 21, 7pm

imageOn July 21st at 7:00 pm, legendary jazz vocalist Dee Daniels performs at the Sitka Performing Arts Center with guest artist Charenee Wade and the Native Jazz Trio. Daniels’ four-octave range and ability to “sing gospel, jazz and blues comfortably and with great emotion” has established her as one of the great jazz artists of her generation. Daniels began singing gospel music in a church choir in Oakland, California and came of age performing R&B before moving to Europe to hone her jazz skills in the 1980s. She’s sung the blues with Sarah Vaughan and gospel with Joe Williams and has performed in concert with jazz greats Lionel Hampton, Toots Thielemans, Johnny Griffin and Ed Thigpen.

Arriving in Sitka straight from a show at New York’s famed Birdland Jazz Club, her concert features jazz standards and gospel classics, as well as original tunes. Joining her on stage will be the Native Jazz Trio (Christian Fabian, bass; Reuel Lubag, piano; and Edward Littlefield, drums), recently appointed Jazz Ambassadors of the United States by the U.S. State Department.

Tickets are now available at Old Harbor Books. General admission is $20; student and seniors, $15. The concert is part of the Dee Daniels Vocal Jazz Workshop, which takes place at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, July 20th-27th . Daniels and Wade, both award-winning jazz artists and educators, will be working with students from throughout Alaska. Students in the intensive week-long camp study vocal technique, improvisation, theory, storytelling, stage presence, the music business and more. All proceeds from ticket sales go toward supporting the SFAC.


Signed Electric Guitar Auction benefitting Sitka Fine Arts Camp



We have some exciting news out of Sitka! We are pleased to announce the first-ever SFAC Rocker’s Dream auction. Starting June 25, 2013 at 10:00am ADT, we will be auctioning off a Greg Bennett Torino model electric guitar, thanks to the generosity of “The Horn Doctor” in Anchorage. If that weren’t exciting enough, two of our star-studded faculty members, Hank Moore and Austin Willacy, will sign and play the guitar. Bidding will end at 9:00pm ADT on Friday, June 28. We will announce the winner at the Rock Band Concert. If the winner is scheduled to perform at the Rock Band Concert, they will even have the opportunity to play the guitar for his/her set on stage in Allen Hall. The site for this auction can be found here:

It is also important to know that an anonymous donor has pledged to match every dollar raised by Sitka Fine Arts Camp during the summer of 2013, up to $100,000. Every dollar will help us reach our goal of saving the beautiful, historic Sheldon Jackson College Campus that more than 700 students call home each summer. Should you be the lucky winning bidder, not only will you take home a piece of rock memorabilia, but your bid will be considered as a donation under the matching campaign. Your bid will have twicethe positive impact on our ability to continue offering top-quality arts programs and restoring our historic home on the SJC campus!

What: An auction for an electric guitar plus gig bag, signed by Hank Moore and Austin Willacy.

When: Auction is open from June 25, 10:00am to June 28, 2013, 9:00pm.

Why: The guitar will be not only a top-of-the-line instrument and a piece of rock memorabilia, but it will also serve as a part of our matching contribution campaign!

Where: The site for this auction can be found here:

Don’t worry SFAC High School Campers…you will get your chance to bid for a signed guitar during high school camp as well!

Middle School Final Performances


Photo by Margo Roseum

Sitka Fine Arts Camp is proud to feature the students of the middle school session as they present their work in the 2013 Final Performances and Exhibition. Music, theater, dance and circus arts performances take place at the Sitka Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (June 26-28) starting at 7:00 pm. Visual Arts students exhibit their work at the annual Art Show in the Yaw Arts Center and writers and chamber music groups present their work in Rasmuson on Friday, June 28th from 1:00 pm—4:00 pm. We also invite everyone to the Odess Theater in Allen Hall on Friday night starting at 10:00 pm for a high energy, once-in-a-lifetime performance from our rock band and advanced rock band members.


Photo by Margo Roseum

All performances and the art exhibition are free-of-charge. Donations however are graciously accepted at evening performance and also in the Rasmuson lobby during the Friday ArtShow.

Parking for the Sheldon Jackson Campus is available at the Hames Center.

The Sheldon Jackson Campus is located at 801 Lincoln Street, a short distance from downtown Sitka.  The Sitka Performing Arts Center is located at the Sitka High School,  1000 Lake Street.

See a full-schedule below:

 Middle School Final Performance Schedule

Wednesday June 26th, 7pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center


Percussion Masterclass

Puppets on the Move

Creating Theater

Sonic Boom

Thursday June 27th, 7pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center

African Dance & Drumming

Theater: The Play

Partner Acrobatics

Mask Theater Performance


Modern Dance

Musical Theater Workshop

Friday June 28th, 1pm-4pm on the Sheldon Jackson Campus

Visual Art Show in Yaw Arts Center (1pm-4pm)

Acting Medley (2pm-2:45pm in the Chapel)

Puppet Medley (2:50pm-3pm in the Chapel)

Vocal Solo (3pm-3:45pm in the Chapel)

Piano Masterclass (3:45pm-4pm in the Chapel)

String Ensembles (2pm-2:30pm in Rasmuson 101)

Brass Ensembles (2:35pm-2:50pm in Rasmuson 101)

Wind Ensembles (2:50pm-3:10pm in Rasmuson 101)

Jazz Combos (3:15pm-4pm in Rasmuson 101)

Writing Class Readings (2pm-3pm in the Smoke Stack)

Songwriting (3pm-4pm in the Smoke Stack)

Friday June 28th, 7pm at the Sitka Performing Arts Center

Jazz Band

A Capella


Chamber Orchestra


Clown Theater

Concert Band

Friday June 28th, 10pm in the Odess Theater at Allen Hall

Rock Band

Sitka Performing Arts Center: 1000 Lake Street • Sitka, AK 99835

Odess Theater at Allen Hall: 801 Lincoln St  • Sitka, AK 99835

**The Final Performance Schedule is subject to change**

*Please call 907-747-3085 for more information

PO Box 3086, Sitka, AK 99835

907.747. 3085

Jazz on the Waterfront

4 - 2012_07_02 C. Olson Jazz on the Waterfront 038

On Saturday, June 29th, the annual Jazz on the Waterfront concert returns to the Odess Theater in the historic Allen Hall at Sheldon Jackson. This year’s Speakeasy-themed benefit features a 20-piece Big Band playing popular songs from the 1920s through the 1980s. Early in the evening, Chef Donte will serve a New Orleans-style dinner in the new Odess Theater followed by dancing into the night. Tickets for the concert and dinner are $65 and available at Old Harbor Books; all proceeds go toward supporting the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Those interested in the event are advised to get tickets early as it usually sells out quickly.

To start the night, the band will take the audience on a journey back to the 1920s with traditional New Orleans jazz tunes by Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. The second set features early-swing era classics by Jimmie Lunceford, Mary Lou Williams and Duke Ellington.  The “exotic” third set features works from Afro-Cuban charts from the late-1940s and 1950s that drawn on African and Cuban rhythms and the middle-eastern sounds of Casablanca, Morocco and Egypt. The fourth set evokes a 1950s Las Vegas showroom and highlights tunes made famous by such crooners as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima. The band closes out the night with some hard driving 1970s funk and popular ‘80s songs from artists such as Michael Jackson, James Brown and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Made up of professional musicians from around the United States, the band is led by Kyle Athayde, bandleader of New York’s hottest new Big Band—the Kyle Athayde Dance Party!

3_Jazz on the Waterfront 041All proceeds from ticket sales and additional donations go to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which has for over forty years inspired campers of all ages to find their creative voice and reach their artistic potential. Money raised at the Jazz on the Waterfront event goes toward scholarships, staffing and supplies for campers. Tuition for each student typically covers less than half of the cost of sending a child to camp–16% of campers receive need-based financial aid. Since being established in 1973, SFAC has provided a top-notch arts education to thousands of campers. This year alone, over 700 students from 37 Alaskan communities, 27 states and 5 different countries will attend one of our nine camps, which include the traditional middle school and high school camps, as well as the Musical Theater camp and Dee Daniels Vocal Jazz camp, among others.

The summer arts camps and Sitka Fest programs take place on the historic Sheldon Jackson College campus in Sitka, which was gifted to the Camp in 2011 after the College’s closure four years earlier. The Camp has since undertaken the monumental project of restoring the historic buildings on the campus, which is registered as a National Historic District.

As part of an ongoing 40th anniversary challenge, an anonymous donor has pledged to match any gift made to the renovation efforts by the end of this summer. If you would like to donate to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp to support the students and historic restoration efforts, please contact 907-747-3085 or visit