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Frances Ann Reed

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Former Fairbanks artist Frances Ann Reed, 65, died on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, at her home in Anchorage.

Following her diagnosis of lung cancer in December 2007, Fran embarked on an intense schedule of workshops and research projects that took her to Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Peters Valley, N.J.; and Kasitsna Bay. On Sept. 27, she was scheduled to present a paper she wrote, titled "Embellishment of the Arctic Gut Parka" in Honolulu at the 11th Biennial Textile Society of America Symposium. She also was scheduled to teach a fish skin and gut workshop at the Mendocino Art Center in late October.

Fran was born in La Jolla, Calif., on June 12, 1943, to Charles and Mary Alice Williams. She was the third youngest of four sisters. She attended high school in La Jolla and continued her education at the University of Oregon, Eugene, where she received a degree in art education.

Her met her future husband, Richard Reed, in 1961, the first week of school at the university, and they were married in 1964. In 1969, they moved to Fairbanks.

She worked with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, researching the use of qiviut (musk ox wool) and taught weaving and textile courses from 1975 to 1987 while raising their son and daughter, Collin and Jocelyn.

Fran was a member the Visual Arts Committee of the Fairbanks Arts Association and an active member of the Fairbanks Weavers and Spinners Guild. She was an advocate for Art in Public Places and Artists in Schools and was instrumental in bringing nationally known artists to Fairbanks through grants from the Alaska State Council on the Arts. She encouraged and inspired many young artists to enter juried shows and to create solo exhibitions.

In 1988, Fran and Dick moved to Anchorage, and for the last 20 years, Fran has been active in the local art scene at the Anchorage Museum. Two years prior to the move to Anchorage, she met Pat Hickman, a gut artist, and through her relationship with Pat changed her focus from weaving and textiles to the use of fish skin and gut. This friendship resulted in a career change for Fran. She started making unique fish skin/gut baskets along with natural materials used as a sub-structure. Fran's baskets have been exhibited in many juried exhibitions in Alaska, in solo and curated exhibitions nationally and in many galleries in the Lower 48. Fran was well known nationally and internationally for her expertise on the traditional and contemporary use of fish skin and gut. She spent 15 years as a lecturer on Alaska Native arts for Alaska Pacific University and the Alaska Marine Highway Elderhostel program.

In 1996, she was selected for the Lila Wallace -- Reader's Digest Artists in Residency fellowship grant at Giverny, France, a small artists' community an hour's train ride from Paris, which allowed her to spend three months at the home and gardens of impressionist master Claude Monet. The following year, Fran was commissioned to create the awards given to recipients of the Alaska Governor's Arts Awards. She received fellowships from the Western States Arts Federation and the Rasmussen Foundation, and earlier this year, received the Anchorage Mayor's Award for Outstanding Individual Artist.

Fran was a frequent visitor to the Smithsonian Institute, researching their Arctic collection of Alaska Native artifacts. In March 2008, she worked four days with the Smithsonian curatorial staff to identify, understand and restore Alaska Native skin garments in their collection. Her last workshop was on fish skin and gut, given in July at Kasitsna Bay across the bay from Homer.

Her final paper will be presented Sept. 27 in Honolulu by Audrey Armstrong of Anchorage, an Athabascan basket maker who Fran encouraged and to whom Fran passed the baton to carry on her work.

She is survived by her husband, Dick, son, Collin Reed and grandson, Eric Reed of Kansas City, Mo.; daughter, Jocelyn Davis of Avalon, N.J.; sisters, Carolyn Thomasson of La Jolla, Calif., and Mary K. Herring of Lennox, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents.

A celebration of her life and a sharing of memories by friends will be held at a potluck at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Well & Good Studios, 1222 Well St.

Published in Daily News-Miner on Sept. 28, 2008
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