"Tales on the Tail"


Bruce Simonson, the artist who decorated this six foot whale tail, intends the design to celebrate and honor Juneau’s vibrant performing arts community and its many dedicated arts organizations.

This sculpture is one of ten similar whale tails created for a project conceived and funded by Laraine Derr as part of Juneau’s fund-raising effort for The Humpback Whale Sculpture at Bridge Park.

Simonson says his concept for the project was inspired by public community bulletin boards around town, with their colorful and interesting posters that advertise upcoming arts events in Juneau.

For the project, Simonson obtained historical posters and memorabilia from over 50 arts organizations in Juneau. After photographing over 1200 posters and program covers, he printed the images as stickers, and ultimately affixed miniature posters for over 900 artistic events on the sculpture.

The earliest poster in the collection is for a production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”, performed by the Juneau Douglas Little Theatre and the Juneau-Douglas Community College in 1960. Price of admission was one dollar.

Simonson marvels at the amount of artistic effort and dedication that are represented by the posters on this sculpture. Many of these posters are for productions that required weeks and even months of rehearsals, involving dozens of individuals. If the posters on the tail could speak, he estimates their tales would give witness to well over one million person hours of artistic effort in Juneau since statehood – an estimate that doesn’t even include the audiences who attended the performances.

Some of the performing groups represented in the project include, for music, the Alaska Youth Choir, CrossSound, Juneau Bach Society, Juneau Brass, Juneau Cabaret, Juneau Chorale, Juneau Concert Band, Juneau Lyric Opera, Juneau Oratorio Choir, Juneau Pride Chorus, Juneau Student Symphony, Juneau Symphony, Juneau Volunteer Marching Band, Juneau Wind Ensemble, Opera to Go, and the St. Paul Singers; for theater, the Alaska Children’s Theatre, Alaska Repertory Theatre, Generator Theatre Company, Juneau Douglas High School Drama and Music, Juneau Douglas Little Theatre, Mudrooms, Naa Kahidi Theatre, Perseverance Theatre, Summer Theatre Arts Rendezvous, Theatre in the Rough, and Thunder Mountain High School Drama and Music; for dance, the Janice Holst Dancers, Juneau Dance Unlimited, and L’Ecole de Ballet; for film, the Juneau Underground Movie Project (JUMP), and the Goldtown Theater; for festivals, the Alaska Folk Festival, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Juneau Concert Association, Juneau Jazz and Classics, Sealaska Heritage Institute, and the Sitka Music Festival in Juneau; and for museums and institutions, the Alaska State Museum, Juneau Douglas City Museum, University of Alaska Juneau, and the University of Alaska Southeast.

For construction of the sculpture, Simonson was assisted by Harry and Thomas James, Roald Simonson, and Gary Vetesy. For the virtual rendering of the sculpture, he received help from Kurt Smith (for photography of the sculpture and construction of the mount), and from Finn Sinclair (for computer modeling and 3D rendering).

The original ten six-foot model tails for this fund-raising project were designed and created by Pedar Dalthorpe and his students at the University of Alaska Southeast, and were decorated by various local artists selected by a committee led by Kathy Ruddy. Bruce Simonson’s whale tail was sponsored by Candy Behrends, and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, and is currently on display at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

To explore an online virtual 3D model of the Tales on the Tail sculpture, visit the JAHC website at: