AOL PICK from our Editors
Anchorage has no notable shopping districts, nor even major malls worth visitor attention. Downtown’s eminently walkable streets are, alas, mostly lined with shops selling T-shirts and kitsch such as ulu knives. But there are a few stores at which visitors can find distinctive wares representative of Alaska. The Anchorage Museum gift shop is also a good venue for Alaskan artwork. Bear in mind that the field of Native art throughout the Pacific Rim is fraught with arcane distinctions and intricacies (such as who is truly Native) and before embarking on a purchase of indigenous work (especially “ivory”), it’s best to seek expert guidance. And remember: If you must buy one of those silly, cliche ulu knives, you cannot bring it home in your carry-on luggage.
Operated by a foundation devoted to promoting indigenous art in Alaska, this downtown gallery features crafts and artworks by Alaska Natives, ranging from masks and dolls to more modern canvases, photographs and sculptures.
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Yes, it makes sense to own a fur coat in Anchorage, and this family-owned furrier has been plying the trade since 1922. The coats, stoles and jackets often evince astoundingly intricate designs and largely use Alaska materials. The downtown showroom has hundreds of items on display for visitors seeking a memorable (and expensive) souvenir.
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Musk oxen survive brutal Arctic winters by bearing millions of tiny under-fur hairs that insulate their bodies, and they shed that hair each spring. Indigenous women gather up the fur, called qiviut, and weave it into incredibly warm, close-knit and intricately decorated garments, sold here at the outlet of a cooperative devoted exclusively to the art. Forget those silly ulu knives—this is a true, unique Alaskan souvenir.
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This small gallery operated by artist Katie Sevigny is the most distinctive modern art space in downtown Anchorage, featuring work by the artist herself; her vivid canvases depict Alaska with wry affection, particularly her salmon paintings. The companion Fiddlehead Gallery (416 G St.) offers reasonably priced artwork with a largely Alaskan theme.
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This massive facility in Midtown has hundreds of shelves of used and new books (a half-million in all) ranging from kids’ to cult fiction. Alaskana titles are a specialty, of course. There’s also a downtown store at 415 W. 5th Ave., open only May-September.
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