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Bunny Swan

This Soldotna-based artist and musician is a lifelong Alaskan who loves the creativity and natural magic of her community.

This Soldotna-based artist and musician is a lifelong Alaskan who loves the creativity and natural magic of her community.

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Q. What’s your role in the art world?

My role is to celebrate the arts and encourage others to join in and be creative. That's why I have a gallery in Soldotna—Artworks Alaska on Beaver Loop Road. Much of the work utilizes a great deal of resources from right here, like soapstone, fabrics, fibers, wood, animal bones, porcupine quills, and antlers. And Native Alaskans can carve ivory and respect and utilize it as an artful resource. It’s thrilling to be able to be creative from your own environment; it really gives you an appreciation for the value of resources around you. In fact, one of the things I love most about this community is the creativity. We’re always making something!

Q. What else do you love about Soldotna?

Soldotna Parks & TrailsOur parks! They’re gorgeous—and environmentally responsible. The fish walks and boardwalks protect the river, make it easily accessible for visitors, and they help increase awareness around this valuable resource. And the water itself blows my mind—it’s a staggeringly beautiful turquoise blue that I never tire of seeing. The river is just one way Soldotna has of bringing people together around unique experiences and activities, especially outdoors.

Q. How long have you lived in Soldotna?

I was born in Anchorage, but I think of the whole Kenai area as one community, so I’ve really lived here my whole life. I’ve traveled a great deal and performed all over the country, including about a dozen times at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., but I always come back to Soldotna. I’m such a product of my environment—the spaciousness and the outdoors are amazing.

Q. What’s the community like?

It’s so welcoming! Just come as you are. Bring a friendly mind and open attitude, and folks here are happy to share their special place.

Q. What inspires you about Soldotna?

The culture. I’m a member of the Kenaitze Indian tribe on the Kenai and a culture bearer of the Dena’ina Athabascan. So much of our life relies on the seasons, and there’s something to celebrate in each one. Summer is great for fishing and 24 hours of daylight. Autumn is berry time. We’re bananas for berries! Cranberries, blueberries...we make a tremendous amount of food with berries. And we really celebrate winter; the northern lights are breathtaking and memorable. But any season offers the opportunity to gather—and we do!

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Q. Sounds like you love the local food.

Yes! There’s an abundance of wild food. And it’s important to respect the source of the food and the environment surrounding it. Fishing may be called “sport fishing,” but it’s really a harvest. Fish are living creatures and they give themselves to us for food. I know people who come here to take home lots of fish and hopefully many memories, but it’s also important to learn the value of processing and caring for your food once you’ve acquired it.

Q. What are your favorite local events?

The live music in Soldotna Creek Park on summer Wednesday evenings is my favorite. There’s food, music, art, culture, young children dancing and singing, and happy people...all in one place! You can even pick up vegetables and other things at the market during the day. It really brings the community together, no matter what the weather is like.

Q. What else do you like to do here?

Sometimes you just want to hang out and be on the water, but you don’t have a lot of time so you leave your boat tied on the dock and have a picnic. People who know me tease me about this, but that’s fine—sometimes I want to go there and just be.

Q. What’s your favorite time of year?

Autumn! There’s the harvest of giant cabbages and big ’ol carrots. Smells so wonderful. There’s lots of salmon, of course. But the best part is the berries. I dry and can them, make jams, and just eat a lot of them.

Q. What would you recommend a visitor to do? How long should they stay?

Their whole trip! Seriously, though, Alaska is SO big. But especially if it’s your first time, come to the Kenai Peninsula. Base yourself in Soldotna and spend a day in Seward and a day in Homer.

Q. What do you hope people get out of a visit here?

An appreciation for everything—especially nature—that they can take home with them. Maybe seeing our river will make people say, “I have a beautiful river at home and I’m going to visit it more frequently,” or just “I want to spend more time outside.” Soldotna is a place that can spark that kind of inspiration.

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