Alaskan artist displays paintings in new STEM building

Artwork by Percy Avugiak
One of the paintings by Alaskan artist Percy Avugiak, now on display in the STEM building.

By MORGAN MALEMUTE, staff writer  

Percy Avugiak, whose paintings will be displayed in the new STEM building at GILA, remembers one time he thought his art was almost perfect.  

“While displaying and selling my artwork at my first Alaska Federation of Native arts and crafts booth, a customer liked my abstract painting so much she wanted to know more about it,” said Mr. Avugiak in an email interview.  

“As I was talking to her, she started crying and then she walked away in tears. She came back and apologized. I thought she was very moved and happy seeing my paintings but turns out she was just having an allergic reaction from the fur that were on my carved wooden masks at my booth. 

That kind of cheerfulness can be seen in the paintings now displayed at the STEM building on the GILA campus.  

The science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) building opened on the GILA campus in January. There are eight classrooms for science and math. The building used to be the headquarters for the former Galena Air Base. 

Mr. Avugiak said he had to adjust and get used to the new normal of 2020 and keep on painting. The first-floor paintings took about a month to work on, then the second-floor paintings took about two months.  

The stairway paintings took about a couple weeks. Each painting had to be well balanced with vibrant colors and be equally balanced with each color, he said.  

“I am very passionate about painting,” he said. “A number of things inspired me to create the paintings. I made sure our great Alaskan interior culture was well represented, along with different seasons and activities. STEM got me looking back at summer academic programs I attended at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”  

“The paintings show elders and youth with diversity in Galena… I shuffled “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” themes and figures throughout each painting.”  

The paintings were paid for by the state of Alaska. Mr. Avugiak said his budget for all the paintings was just below $20,000.  

Mr. Avugiak said he enjoys working with students, including the reporter at the Hawk Highlights. “These are great questions and I had a lot of joy answering them,” he said.  

According to his website, Mr. Avugiak is Inupiaq and Yup’ik. He grew up in Chefornak and graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a degree in fine arts. He currently lives in Eagle River.