On March 27, 1964, a violent 9.2 earthquake — the largest-ever recorded in North America — hit the Alaskan city of Valdez. The town’s waterfront slid into the sea, and 32 men, women and children lost their lives.
An avalanche triggered a local tsunami, with tremors felt as far away as California and Hawai‘i. The entire city had to be rebuilt, and people had to uproot their lives to start over.
To mark the 50th anniversary of this devastating part of Alaskan history, the Valdez Museum created a traveling exhibition as a tribute to perseverance, loss, community and memory — themes that survivors of disasters in Hawai‘i and in other parts of the world could relate to.
The result is “Communities, Disaster, and Change,” which is at WCC’s Gallery ‘Iolani through April 30.
“This is an exhibition about redemption as well as grief,” says Toni Martin, WCC art professor and Gallery ʻIolani director. “We are honored that the Valdez Museum in Alaska has included Gallery ʻIolani as a venue for an exhibition of this impact.”
The exhibit features 28 pieces from a diverse group of artists who live in Alaska and represent different cultures and communities.
“Many artists in this exhibition have personalized the impact of these crushing disasters and have experienced not only loss and pain, but also how these things often bring out the best of our humanity in spite of a future of uncertainty,” says Martin.
The focus on how communities respond to natural disasters hits close to home for people in the islands.
“We are vulnerable to the same circumstances due to our isolation here in Hawai‘i,” says Martin.
Whether it’s a lava flow on the Big Island, an earthquake that shakes us from sleep, or a hurricane or tsunami, natural disasters pose a never-ending threat.
The gallery is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and Sunday.
by Elizabeth Voltz, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter