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A glimpse inside Unalaska’s new library: Metal artist Cat Cramer discusses windscreen installation

Cat Cramer standing in front of her work at Unalaska's new library
Lauren Adams
Artist Cat Cramer stands in front of her work at Unalaska's new library.

Unalaska’s new public library is expected to open in April. It’ll have more space, a fireplace, and many new art installations. Each of those installations will feature a different artist from around the state.

Prior to the reopening, KUCB is bringing the community a glimpse into the remodel by interviewing some of the artists whose work will be featured in the new library.

KUCB’s Sofia Stuart-Rasi sat down with metalwork artist Cat Cramer to hear more about her piece and how it was inspired by childhood memories on the island.


KUCB: Tell us about your piece at the library and how you got involved.

CAT CRAMER: Well, it is a metal piece. It's the windscreen for the library. It's 33 feet by eight feet, and it's eighth inch aluminum. There's 11 panels, each three feet by eight feet. And it's a wind and ravens design they panels themselves. Let's see I put vinyl on them. I drew the design out and then I cut it and peeled it and took it to the sandblaster they sandblasted the design on. I have five ravens that are powder coated black that are flying on it. And then there's a moon of course. And then when you go behind the windscreen into the library there's some secret little shiny jellyfish to see too.

KUCB: So, you're a metal artist, right?

CRAMER: Yes. So, I actually fabricated everything on the Kenai Peninsula. I actually heard about the project from a friend who lived out here. And she had suggested I put a proposal in because they were doing a call for artists. It was my first time doing a public art project. I had just recently graduated with an art degree from KPC. And so anyway, I put a proposal together and came up with an idea of my, you know, interpretation and memory memories from being out here as a kid and I love the wind. I love watching the birds fly. So, that's basically what I was going for and what I designed.

KUCB: Is there any particular reason why you chose ravens?

CRAMER: Probably just because I love to listen to them. And I know that there's more Eagles out here, but I just love listening to ravens and all the noises they make.

KUCB: I love the jellyfish touch.

CRAMER: You know, they're kind of iconic for walking the beaches here. And that's why really, it's kind of a neat effect. You go behind the windscreen towards the doors and it gets a little bit darker in there. And just the pattern of the metal itself almost looks like an aquarium -- like it's all sandblasted. But there's the shiny jellyfish kind of fluttering around under there. So, it's just kind of a neat little side design on the whole project.

KUCB: So, it's up now?

CRAMER: Yes, it's up. Now we finished putting it up today. The city crew were great, they put it all up for me while I kind of stood around and told them where ravens went.

KUCB: Congratulations, that's really exciting! I'm gonna have to go out after this interview and check it out.

CRAMER: It's gorgeous in the light.

KUCB: So, we kind of talked about this a little bit. You know, you mentioned growing up here. And that was part of your inspiration for this piece.

CRAMER: Yeah, so I went to junior high in high school out here, and not all of high school, but I lived here kind of at an important time in my life. And those years were pretty incredible. I mean, flying-in last week was, very, just amazing, because it's been close to 30 years since I've been out here. But I spent most of my time wandering the hills, walking the beach, running around with friends and kids. And so to be back after all this time, and then to be able to contribute to a community that you know, was so important to me. It's just very, very satisfying and very, very wonderful.

KUCB: Can you tell us about your background as an artist?

CRAMER: Well, I've always been creative. I actually took art classes here. In Alaska, there's a clay mural inside the school that I helped build when I was, I think, in eighth grade. But yeah, I just continued to take classes and goof off my whole life. And I had joined the army so, when I got home I had the GI bill and so I thought, well, I'm gonna keep taking classes. And that kind of just turned into a degree and I was very fortunate there was a foundry metalworking studio with the college I was at. So, I just started making all this metal art and kind of developed my own ideas and style. So, now I'm just kind of going with it. It's actually very satisfying. I'm glad that I've decided to take this route because there's so many different things I could have done but my creativity is really exploding these days.

KUCB: What about metal do you like working with?

CRAMER: It feels so substantial, it feels permanent. You know, when I do stuff on paper, maybe it's because I have kids and I see so much stuff get damaged and I know that metal can get damaged too. But I don't know … I was a coin collector when I was a kid and I can remember that I would just hold metal coins in my hand – and how much I loved them. So, maybe, that has something to do with that. I just have a love of metal and something that seems so solid can be changed and create just beautiful art.

KUCB: What's it like being back on the island?

CRAMER: Oh, I can't even describe it – flying-in was something else and you know I sit with my window at the hotel open with the wind blowing in and watching the birds for hours each day. I'm hiking – like I've gone up to Bunker Hill twice and I've just walked all over. It feels good. It feels good. It's like even though I haven't been here in 30 years it feels like I kind of came home and came to one of my homes and I love it here. It's just a beautiful place to live. Beautiful, beautiful town.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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