Keri Cohen with her completed ceramic installation. (Emily Files)

Kerry Cohen with her completed ceramic installation. (Emily Files)

Haines ceramic artist Kerry Cohen recently finished installing a porcelain mosaic on the walls of the burnt-out Fort Seward Barracks. She drew inspiration from the glaciers outside her window that have served as a breathtaking backdrop to this area for centuries.

Cohen created the icy-looking, textured porcelain installation as part of the Alaska Arts Confluences’ Fort Seward Sculpture Garden.

“My thought was what do the residents, the people that lived here at [the time of the Fort], what do we have in common with them? And what do all of us have in common with the Tlingits and all the inhabitants of the Chilkat Valley?”

The answer, she concluded, is the environment.

“This pretty extraordinary place where the mountain meets the sea and we have these glacial-carved features in the mountains. It’s really pretty unique.”

Cohen textured porcelain slabs using rocks. She then carefully chose glazes to coat the pieces.

Some of the porcelain slabs created by Cohen. (Emily Files)

Some of the porcelain slabs created by Cohen. (Emily Files)

“For the color, I took my glaze samples out and held them up to glaciers, especially Rainbow Glacier, because there’s a lot of really deep, blue ice because it’s so thick there.”

Cohen says she wanted to cement the porcelain pieces on to the barracks wall in a way that complemented the existing textures and features.

“It was really important for me to blend with it. And I think I successfully blended because I’ve had some people come and not notice the artwork is up,” Cohen said with a laugh.

But she says the organic look of the installation feels good.

“It’s not shocking…I haven’t overwhelmed the beauty of the wall.”

Cohen said some observers have said her piece looks like a map. (Emily Files)

Cohen said some observers have said her piece looks like a map. (Emily Files)

The name of her piece is ‘Our Shifting Foundation.’

“That speaks to the foundation of the barracks changing and also the climate around us changing.”


More than a dozen local artists are involved in the Alaska Arts Confluences’ outdoor art project, which is funded by a grant from the ArtPlace America Foundation.

More artist profiles:

Adrian Revenaugh with her in-progress installation. (Emily Files)

Adrian Revenaugh

Jim Heaton carving the backs of the welcome figure panels. (Emily Files)

Jim Heaton

Megan Morehouse with her mosaic for the Fort Seward Outdoor Art Project. (Emily Files)

Megan Morehouse

John Svenson with his in-progress mosaic. (Emily Files)

John Svenson

John Hagen with a print of his photograph that will be blown up and displayed at Port Chilkoot dock. (Emily Files)

John Hagen

Katie Craney painting on a rusted boiler door on the Fort Seward barracks ruins. (Emily Files)

Katie Craney

Dave Pahl and 'The Tank with the Crank.' (Jillian Rogers)

Dave Pahl

Andrea Nelson is using scrap metal salvaged from the barracks and installing it on the wall to her right. (Emily Files)

Andrea Nelson

Jeff Moskowitz uses Adobe Illustrator to digitally recreate a map from 1905. (Emily Files)

Jeff Moskowitz

Gene Kennedy welds re-bar into the shape of a dog. (Emily Files)

Gene Kennedy

Debi Knight Kennedy holds pieces of her found object sculpture.

Debi Knight Kennedy

Donna Catotti painting Tlingit regalia for the Fort Seward art project.

Donna Catotti