When Jann Nunn found out she was moving to Alaska, she admitted she was less than excited. “I thought my life was going to be over,” she says. “But then I fell in love with Alaska. Its physical beauty is nothing short of stunning.”
As a military child, Jann moved a lot. From New Mexico to Texas to California to North Carolina to Missouri and Louisiana, Jann eventually found herself in Alaska. She attended high school in Anchorage for two years before her father received a new assignment to Louisiana where she graduated. Her parents were eventually reassigned to Fort Richardson after her senior year and were planning their move back to Anchorage. Because of her love for Alaska and a desire to be close to her family, she decided to join them and begin her college career at UAA.
Unlike some of us, Jann knew at age 6 what she wanted to do for the rest of her life—be an artist. At first it was painting, but after taking a sculpture class at UAA, her life changed forever.
Prior to the class, Jann thought sculpture was just an object that sat on a pedestal. She soon realized that sculpture included other elements like sound, lighting, projected images, performance and audience engagement. “It’s not 2-dimensional like painting. Its modes of expressions are much richer, and I was completely captivated by it.”
Going to college was tough for Jann during her first years at UAA. Financially independent, Jann had to work a full-time job and attend UAA part-time. “It definitely prolonged the process, but I was determined and found scholarships that helped me through,” she says.
While at UAA, Jann participated in a summer residency in England where she launched her artwork internationally for the first time. “UAA provided many opportunities for me. Anything I wanted to do was accomplishable, and my ideas were supported and embraced by professors and the community,” she says.
Her love for sculpture ultimately influenced Jann to teach others about art. She is currently a professor of sculpture at Sonoma State University in California. “As an educator, I want to instill the kind of opportunities for my students that UAA provided for me. I encourage them to expand the boundaries of their art-making and pursue their wildest dreams so they can produce authentic works of art. It is important to me that my students graduate equipped to face the next stage of their lives confident in their abilities to succeed.”
Having taught for 15 years, Jann feels she has the knack for it. “I love when students have that ‘A ha!’ moment. It keeps me interested because I always learn something from them. I’m invigorated by the cyclic process of teaching and learning.“
So, what does Jann sculpt? “For more than 20 years, I have primarily constructed large-scale sculptural installations, ephemeral works and performance art pieces.” Jann’s projects are often extremely laborious and can take long amounts of time to complete. The Erna & Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove is a monument that took Jann three years to finish. It incorporates four hundred and sixty bricks inscribed with the names and communities of those who have endured genocide, forty feet of railroad track and a 12-foot tall internally lighted tower made of 5,000 pieces of glass. “This project was emotionally heavy, but satisfying because it provides a physical site for families to commemorate their lost loved ones with a permanent marker.” Check out more photos of the project on Jann’s website.
But it’s Jann’s ability to combine teaching and the thing she loves to do most—sculpture—that keeps her excited about life. “It’s definitely a good life. I get to inspire students and watch them grow as artists, and at the same time, have the unencumbered freedom to pursue my own sculptural projects.”
Jann remembers UAA because it paved her career path as a sculptor. “UAA was a springboard for me. I am forever grateful for the support from my professors, who are my life-long role models, as I was building a life as a professional artist.”