By Victoria Martinez
Nancy Yaki, the chairwoman of Dunn School’s Fine Art Department who spent the past year on sabbatical, is leaving the private school after 10 years to pursue her personal art more extensively.
“I’m sad that I’m leaving Dunn. I love the students, love teaching,” she said.
Yaki spent her time at Dunn sharing her artistic passions with students in studio, advanced, and AP art classes. She brought not only her artistic abilities to her students, but also her unique life experiences.
Yaki moved from New England to Alaska at the age of 18 in search of landscapes and adventure. She brought with her the trade of carpentry and added commercial fisherwoman to her résumé once she arrived. She believes that having life experiences beyond the classroom was an important part of her instruction.
“It makes a really rich environment,” she said.
Yaki is grateful for the time she spent at Dunn and explained how rewarding it has been to watch students from the school go on to great art programs. Past students have gone on to schools such as Bard College, NYU’s Tisch Art, Pratt Institute, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
During her time on sabbatical from Dunn, Yaki realized she needed to delve into her own art more at this point in her life. As a contemporary landscape artist, she has defined her own style.
“I’m very passionate about the environment and landscape and how lucky we are in America that we have these big open spaces,” Yaki said. “We need to not take them for granted.”
While driving her half-camper/half studio, Yaki pulls over and paints whenever she’s inspired. She starts with painting thumbnail watercolor images that can fit in the palm of her hand, often traveling with a Ziploc bag with water in it. She also keeps colored pencils readily available to capture the images before expanding on her vision back at her art studio.
Yaki’s work can now be found in the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art’s exhibit “The Roadside Series.” The series began with the landscapes Yaki observed during her daily commute. Over time, she expanded her studies east to the Rockies and north at the end of Highway 1 in Homer, Alaska.
At the end of September, she will fly into Sand Point, Alaska, where she will be picked up by the fishing vessel YorJim. As she heads north through Shelikof Strait towards Homer, Yaki will be documenting the landscape along the coast and stopping on remote beaches for day hikes.
While capturing the landscape through her art, she will also be studying the history of North America in the region during the mid-1700s when Georg Wilhelm Stellar and Vitas Bering explored the coastline as pioneers of Alaskan natural history. She hopes to bring a body of work back to the Central Coast to rework on a larger scale for another exhibit.
She also plans on continuing to teach private lessons and workshops in the future.
“I think I’ll always be a teacher,” Yaki explained.
She also believes students’ learning should not be limited to their years of formal education and encourages people to stay open to learning their entire lives.
“Learning is a lifelong process … the process is the destination. It’s not about grades, it’s really about the process,” Yaki said.