Pursuit Alaska Collection is offering a weekend of events to commemorate 100 years since artist Rockwell Kent landed on Fox Island near Seward. Images courtesy Kenai Fjords Tours unless otherwise specified. ~ Sponsored content
When Rockwell Kent II (1882-1971) arrived in Alaska aboard the steamship Admiral Farragut in August of 1918, he came with a burden far heavier than his steamer trunks. The artist, father, husband, and known provocateur of affairs had lived a somewhat unrecognized existence before his trip north. His art was rather banal, no one would accept his work at art shows, and Kent was distressed and depressed that his passion — painting — was so woefully ignored. So he collected his son, Rockie, then nine, packed trunks with what he thought the two would need for a year of Last Frontier adventuring, along with brushes, pencils, and canvas frames; and caught the Farragut from Seattle.
As the ship traveled north, Kent deliberated where to stop, ultimately deciding that the end of the line – Seward – was perfect. Resurrection Bay’s islands and rugged peaks attracted his artist’s eye, but the sizable, settled community also gave him the security he wanted for Rockie. On the lookout for a place to stay, Kent met a somewhat grizzled 71-year-old fox farmer and goat rancher named Lars Matt Olson who homesteaded and raised foxes on an island not far from Seward. The two struck a deal; Kent and Rockie could live in an old cabin tucked away in the spruce forest of Fox Island, near enough to hear incoming tides wash across flat stones of the beach. In exchange for a place to stay, Kent was to watch the goats and foxes if Olson needed to be away.
The dense forest with its brooding mountain views was a perfect palette for Kent’s artistic musings, and a collection of writings accompanies his many works from that time period in his memoir “Wilderness: A journal of quiet reflection in Alaska.” Throughout a typical Alaska winter of snow, wind, and darkness, Kent slowly became reacquainted with himself. By the time he and Rockie departed in 1919, Kent had gained an appreciation for both Alaska’s rugged grandeur and the effort it took to survive within it.
Today, Fox Island is home to a unique luxury lodge that draws curious Kent fans and others seeking solitude eight miles from Seward. Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge is an experience rather than a destination, with stunning views of Resurrection Bay, cozy cabins that allow for unplugging, and a rocky beach to explore.
Owned by Pursuit Alaska Collection, the lodge is attentive to the history of Kent, and over the past year has hosted events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his arrival in Alaska.
Chef Wes Choy, who spends most of his time overseeing the culinary delights of Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, is coming to Fox Island to curate a hands-on, behind-the-scenes culinary event in a tribute to the late renowned artist Rockwell Kent, who spent a pivotal winter here 100 years ago. Scheduled over three days and two nights August 23-25, this immersive experience will allow guests a hands-on approach to Kent’s lifestyle, location, and the activities pivotal to cuisine in the Last Frontier.
Choy, who grew up in New York, ironically just across the Hudson River from Rockwell Kent’s hometown, has been intrigued about the Kent stories. “I’ve been captivated by his memoirs, and his desire for solitude even before I read about him,” he said. “I look to the same things in nature for inspiration, like Kent did.”
Guests attending this tribute event will have the opportunity to engage in two events involving culinary technique, wine tasting, and a bit of history related to Fox Island foraging, all led by Chef Choy. Dishes will include white bean veloute, pan-seared wild Alaska halibut, Fox Island Souffle’, and a blueberry-plum cobbler, paired with wines selected specifically for this occasion.
What does Chef Choy hope guests of the event will take away? A sense of place, certainly, for after a visit to Fox Island one is never truly the same. But there’s also more.
“I want people to truly understand what it felt like to be Kent; what he ate, where he got certain foods, and how he prepared them,” Choy said. “I want people to know how food connects to location and a respect for the environment in that we need to keep it going for future generations.”
Choy wants people to “be blown away” by what they experience. And given the tapestry of experiences offered, it’s sure to be a weekend to remember.
For information about Pursuit Alaska Collection’s Culinary Tribute to Rockwell Kent, call 1.800.808.8068, or visit https://www.alaskacollection.com/travel-deals/a-culinary-tribute-to-rockwell-kent/