New Exhibit Spotlights Spruce Island Monk



Father Gerasim in a playful mood outside his home on Afognak, 1920s. Photo Baranov Museum

Brianna Gibbs/KMXT

The Baranov Museum will pay tribute to a 20th century Russian monk from August until November with a new exhibit entitled: Father Gerasim, Monk and Artist. The exhibit features historical artifacts and photographs about the life of The Reverend Gerasim Schmaltz, who was a pastor on Afognak Island before moving to Spruce Island in 1935.

Katie Oliver is the director of the Baranov Museum and offers this history about Schmaltz.

(Father Gerasim 1: :43 sec "Father Gerasim was … and also his monastic legacy.")

Oliver said that in going to Spruce Island, Schmaltz fulfilled a prophecy that Saint Herman had made a hundred years earlier which said a monk fleeing worldly glory would come to the area and serve in fasting and prayer.

(Father Gerasim 2: :17 sec "So he’s a very … many, many Kodiak people.")

Schmaltz also performed baptisms. Mary Jane Longrich was baptized by him as a baby, and is semi responsible for the creation of the exhibit in his honor.

Longrich approached Oliver a year ago about a series of photographs she had taken 25 years ago on Spruce Island that offer a glimpse into the life Schmaltz led there.

(Father Gerasim 3: :52 sec "I went to Spruce Island on this … By his home.")

The 12 photographs Longrich took detailing the inside of Schmaltz’s home are the centerpiece of the exhibit, which Oliver says is also an art exhibit. The museum used the photographs as an opportunity to compile community artifacts about Schmaltz to put on the exhibit and has borrowed artifacts from the Alutiiq Museum, Saint Herman’s Seminary and even a number of items donated by Schmaltz himself in the early 1950s.

The Baranov Museum has a busy weekend coming up. There will be an opening reception for the exhibit Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is also hosting the 8th annual Picnic on the Green Sunday. The Air Force Band of the Pacific will play at Sargent Park around noon and community member are invited to come picnic on the grass and participate in other museum sponsored activities. There will be free admission both days.


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