Meet Hanna Stevenson: Sculptor and Apprentice PipefitterJune 29, 2009
This past winter, for 2007–08 Career Development grantee and sculptor Hanna Stevenson, a typical day began at 5:15 a.m. with a breakfast of ice cream and coffee. To protect her body from the cold Alaskan weather and high winds during her work as an apprentice pipefitter, she wore at least four layers of clothes. She filled her pockets with tools of the trade, including channel locks, wrenches, and a small level. The work bus left at 6:40 a.m., heading for the site where the 10–12 crew members were briefed for the day. A typical day, which was spent entirely outside in below freezing weather, was broken up by lunch, two 15-minute breaks, and an occasional drive to the nearest bathroom.
As one of only two women on the team, Hanna found herself taking on some traditional female roles. “I bring four to five bags of food to share every day, I make the coffee, and I clean up the tiny kitchen area in the back of the bus. If I don’t, no one will.” This experience has pushed Hanna to explore the tensions between the genders through art. “My work on the North Slope in the male-dominated oil fields has been a huge learning experience for me.”
Hanna worked in Alaska in 2005–06 as an artist and an apprentice blacksmith before deciding to go back to school to pursue a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. After graduation, Hanna took the apprentice pipefitter position to enhance her work as an artist by exploring new ways to work with metals. Hanna’s MFA art show focused on sculptural objects of bronze, aluminum, and fiberglass under the theme of transformation. This title seems fitting, as it was Hanna’s goal to move to Alaska on her own to pursue an MFA to “get the most out of life as an artist.” The AAUW Career Development Grant helped Hanna in the last year of her master’s program, allowing her to expand her body of work and to use new materials that would have otherwise been too costly.
According to Hanna, her best artwork to date is “Vehicle of Transformation,” a 7-foot-long rideable “larvae” complete with an old-fashioned tractor seat and rubber-coated cast iron wheels. “I wanted to create an object that was interactive and kinetic. This piece embodies a sense of childhood adventure and limitless joy.”
As Hanna continues on her own journey of transformation, she plans to help other girls do the same. “I hope to combine my art background with my position in the trades to encourage young women in Alaska to better themselves and their place in society through education and the skilled trades … or both!”