ANMC tree displays handmade ornaments from Alaska Native artists

Published: Dec. 22, 2016 at 4:49 PM AKST
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It's a display more than 40 years in the making — a rotating Christmas tree filled with ornaments, each one hand crafted in its own style and with its own story.

The tree outside the Alaska Native Medical Center Auxiliary Craft Shop displays dozens of miniature works of art, all made by Alaska Native artists and elders from every culture in the state, according to volunteer Audrey Armstrong. The pieces on the tree are only a fraction of the hundreds of ornaments collected over the years and rotated out each holiday season.

Armstrong said having this and other artwork displayed around the hospital helps patients with the healing process because many are able to see work their loved ones have made.

"It's a beautiful reminder of our ancestors and all the gorgeous work that they do," Armstrong said. "And that gives inspiration to others to continue."

Some of Armstrong's ornaments made of fish skin join other carved, woven and sewn pieces of art. Members of the ANMC Auxiliary Craft Shop would often ask artists to make miniature versions of their work specifically for the tree. The display rotates, allowing visitors to see the variety of pieces.

"Sometimes people just stand here for about 40 minutes to an hour," Armstrong said. "Some people just stand here and look, and the little kids, they just love coming up and looking at it as it's turning, and looking at the beautiful ornaments because a lot of art is from their relatives."

The tree is on display at the Craft Shop in the main building at ANMC until after the first week of January. The shop itself is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month.