Artist and painter Crystal Worl is currently taking on an exciting new project to honor Alaskan Natives and non-Natives alike. That said, Worl is creating a massive 125-foot wide by 48-foot tall mural in downtown Anchorage filled with vibrant colors and subtle symbolism paying homage to Alaskan culture.
The Mural’s Theme
Before Worl was contracted to portray this new piece of work, the previous mural standing at the location displayed parts of Anchorage’s history.
Initially painted in 1997, the mural showcased several pieces of modern technology against a backdrop of Anchorage’s beautiful skyline. As eye-catching as the artwork was, it lacked any Native American references, which is shocking when one considers the extensive history Indigenous people have in the state.
That said, Worl’s primary objective was to bring more of a Native perspective to downtown Anchorage. “The theme of the mural is acknowledging Dena’ina (Athabascan) territory and Alaska Native Indigenous people as we are living today,” Worl explains.
Worl’s Goals for the Mural
Like any piece of artwork, Worl’s mural has several intentions she hopes viewers take away from it.
For example, one of Worl’s goals is to make downtown Anchorage more inclusive. In addition, the painter wants to amplify Indigenous identities, as they are often ignored or forgotten in today’s society.
Further, Worl attests the mural makes “a statement that we are modern people living in the modern world, using modern technologies.” And although Native people are prominent in the modern world, the painter wants to display that their community still blends traditional lifestyles with modern elements.
Elements Included in the Anchorage Mural
Every element of the downtown Anchorage mural was handpicked with careful intention. The vibrant colors were used to make a statement about Native people being prevalent in the modern world, despite the systemic racism in the country.
Additionally, the animals portrayed in the piece include salmon, caribou, fox, and beavers, all of which are common in Alaska. Other Indigenous elements include tribe-specific jewelry, basketry designs, Athabascan beadwork patterns, and dentalium shells.
Still, one of the most meaningful Indigenous symbols incorporated in Worl’s mural is a small white circle resting inside several of the animals.
“In Inupiaq, we call that the Inua, which is the inner spirit, the inner being, which also overlaps with various different cultures in Alaska,” Worl explains. By working various symbols into the mural, Worl successfully connects a plethora of Alaskan people.
Connecting Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Alaskans
Worl used the value of subsistence to allow her mural to connect with both Indigenous Alaskans and non-Indigenous Alaskans.
Throughout her research, the painter found that subsistence fishing and berry picking were commonalities between the two groups. “It seemed to overlap with all Alaskans and be a really strong thing in all the different cultures within Alaska,” she notes.
So, by incorporating this theme into her mural, Worl further displays how many cultural aspects Alaskans share.
Fortunately, Worl and her team helping her create the massive mural have received a flood of positive support and excitement. “I feel very proud to be here and have this design,” Worl says.
Overall, Worl wants her mural to make people feel proud of their culture and details unique to Alaska.