School of Art Design and Art History

Gallery Dedication to Gary Freeburg


SUMMARY: Duke Hall Gallery Director, Gary Freeburg, was honored with a gallery re-dedication at the University of Alaska.

At the University of Alaska, Gary Freeburg built the Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) Art Gallery in 1985 with his own hands, a homesteader’s mentality and a bit of moxie.  

When Freeburg came to KPC in 1982, the college had no gallery and was displaying student work on four-by-eight pegboard sheets in the student commons.  In 1985, Freeburg solicited a traveling exhibition of Alaska Community College artwork and needed a secure space to display the pieces.  With the help of maintenance supervisor Paul Rochon, he found a portion of a large classroom that KPCC President Les Vierra agreed to devote to an art gallery.

“All the materials to build the gallery came out of my own pocket,” Freeburg said.  “Paul and I built the walls to the gallery over a weekend. I believe that the cost of materials was approximately $300 (then).  I secured $600 from the college and purchased doors to finally enclose the space.”

The result was the Kenai Peninsula College Gallery, renamed the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery after Freeburg’s retirement in 2002. He lived and worked in Alaska for twenty-five years and served as a professor of art at the University of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula College, where he directed the art program and served as the curator in the campus art gallery that now bears his name. 

Cam Choy, Celia Anderson, and Gary Freeburg in the gallery
Current Gallery Director, Cam Choy; Past Director, Celia Anderson; and Creator and Past Director, Gary Freeburg 

Celia Anderson, an Assistant Professor of art at KPC, wrote a letter in September 2002 urging the name change.  In the letter she cited a long list of Freeburg’s accomplishments as an artist himself and his pivotal role in establishing the importance of visual art at KPC.  During Freeburg’s tenure, he curated 153 exhibitions, including student art, as well as the works of local, national, and international artists.

“The mission of the gallery was to support the art curriculum at the college and to try to build a bridge between the college and the community,” Freeburg said.  “Many of the visiting artists did workshops and gave lectures at KPC to go along with their exhibitions.  I take pride in the gallery and am pleased that it continues as a sought-after venue in Alaska.”

Gary Freeburg with students in the gallery
Gary Freeburg with students in the gallery.

He saw the gallery on campus as a fundamental educational vehicle for exposing students to the finest exemplars in the visual arts that the state could provide. Over its history, the gallery has become a visual center of the Kenai campus, a visual laboratory for students and a showcase for students' work. It has also become one of the most significant venues for the visual arts on the peninsula. It can attract over 100 people at a time for events associated with the visual arts such as exhibitions, receptions and artist lectures and workshops. The gallery is one of the few visual arts galleries at an extended site within the University of Alaska system.

As well as his commitment to teaching with the UA system at KPC and constructing and directing the campus gallery, Gary made enormous contributions to the arts of the state of Alaska. His photographs are part of the permanent collections of the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, Kenai Peninsula College, The State Council on the Arts State Arts Bank and the Kenai Peninsula Visitors and Cultural Center.  

Freeburg has worked with renowned photographers and educators, such as Ansel Adams, Oliver Gagliani, and John Schultz, and his photographs have been exhibited nationally and appeared in Under Northern Lights, Writers and Artists View the Alaskan Landscape and Looking North (University of Washington Press, 1998; 2000). He has received an Individual Artist Fellowship Grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Anchorage; an honorary degree for his contribution to the visual arts from Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage; and an Art Educator of the Year Award in Higher Education from the Alaska Art Education Association. He was recognized by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts for his art advocacy work in Alaska and Washington, DC, and a documentary film by George C. Johnson, An Artist's Journey to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes: The Photography of Gary Freeburg, serves as a capstone to Freeburg's photographic work in the wilderness of Alaska.

Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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