The Homestead Paths, directly across the main parking lot from the Gallery entrance, are a journey into Alaskan homesteading history. The original log cabin of Norman Lowell, built in 1958, sits in the center of the property now owned by the foundation. Surrounded by flower gardens, dozens of lilacs, and many trees and shrubs brought from around the country to the property by the Artist, the Homestead Paths are open to all visitors, who are invited to walk among the memories of 62 years of life in Alaska.
The Homestead Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and extended to include Alaska in 1898, made lands in the Western United States available to those willing to do the work to settle it. 160-acre parcels were granted to those who would accomplish several requirements, including farming a portion of the acreage. Over 3000 claims were filed in Alaska during the timeframe of the Act, which was repealed in 1976. Homesteading, like the discoveries of oil and gold, made a forever-lasting mark on the culture of Alaska.
In 1958, Norman and Libby Lowell journeyed to Alaska with their infant daughter. They filed a claim on the lower Kenai Peninsula, just south of the tiny town of Anchor Point. After developing the land and building a small log cabin for their growing family, Norman and Libby moved to Anchorage, where Norman advanced his art career through annual public displays and teaching. After a successful decade in Anchorage, the Lowells returned to the Anchor Point homestead in the early 70’s, and built a larger log home next to the original cabin. In 1975, Norman opened his first dedicated studio and gallery on the property, where visitors were greeted by the artist for 20 years.
Following the completion of the larger gallery in 2000, the original studio became Norman’s working studio. The homestead grounds remained open to visitors, and Norman and Libby cultivated vibrant flower gardens around the various historic buildings. Norman painted in the studio during the winter, and welcomed visitors to the Gallery in the summer. In addition to tending the large flower and vegetable gardens, the Artist built a 120ft greenhouse where he experimented with grafting and cultivating a large variety of fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and vines.
Eventually, Norman subdivided his original homestead land. A large section was devoted to the building of a short-wave radio station, and many parcels were transferred to other owners. Today, the Foundation owns the portion of the original homestead parcel holding the Gallery and most of the original building and farming land.
The Studio in 2019
The homestead property is a living memory of a past culture in Alaska. Fences, sheds, and old walkways are overgrown. The flower gardens, still tended by the Artist and his wife, are greatly reduced from their one-time state. The Artist’s greenhouse has been shuttered and mostly removed from the property. The homestead cabin is sunken and dilapidated. But faded photos, tools, and wares inside preserve the memory of its purpose. And every year, in the late spring, the entire property is filled with the scent of lilacs. The Foundation is developing a long-term vision to preserve the property in a way that honors the work of a now-gone era. To that end, the long-closed 1975 studio is being reopened in 2020.
Visitors are welcome to explore the beauty and memory of the Homestead Paths. When visiting, please respect the privacy of the Artist and his family by not entering or disturbing the log house, which is their private residence.