Swimmers’ tiles at Juneau pool celebrate the life aquatic

a woman
Christy Simonson grew up swimming at Juneau’s Augustus Brown Pool. She also painted one of the tiles that has lined the women’s locker room for more than 20 years. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

After 50 years of operation, Juneau’s Augustus Brown Pool has closed for major renovations.

City Aquatics Manager Terra Patterson described some of the upcoming improvements on Juneau Afternoon last week. They include resurfacing the pool, new electric plumbing and ventilation upgrades.

“The locker rooms are probably the biggest piece that people will notice the most,” Patterson said. “The locker rooms are being completely renovated.”

But one part of the locker rooms will live on in a new art installation — the tiles painted in 1999 by Juneau kids.

Christy Simonson — then Christy Race — painted one of those tiles. She was working as a lifeguard, and the second and third graders needed help painting tiles. She and her sister, Marta, volunteered. 

They also painted tiles of their own. For more than 20 years, those tiles have lined the women’s locker room.

a painted tile
Simonson’s tile depicts the Northern Lights above a mountain. It’s interesting that in high school, I appreciated nature and that kind of scenery,” she said. “Now, as an adult, I appreciate it even more.” (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Simonson’s tile has streaks of green across a dark blue sky.

“It looks like I did some Northern Lights on the horizon, which I still love to this day,” Simonson said. “It’s interesting that in high school, I appreciated nature and that kind of scenery. Now, as an adult, I appreciate it even more.”

Her sister painted stick figures swimming in a pool lane and wrote “I love to swim at 4:45 a.m.” — a nod to their early morning high school swim practices.

“There were snow blizzards we were driving through in the pitch black, freezing cold, to come swimming in the pool for an hour before high school would start,” Simonson said. “No one really loves doing that, but we loved the sport and being with the team, so it was worth it.”

a painted tile
Marta Race’s tile was an ode to early morning swim practices. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Simonson’s love of swimming started early. She joined the Glacier Swim Club at age 6, in 1985.

“From then until ‘99, I was here,” she said. “It was my life.”

She built a community around the teammates, coaches, coworkers and Juneau residents who visited the pool every day. She taught swim lessons for kids. One summer, she led aerobic activity classes for seniors, guiding them through different motions in the water.

“It was a great way, from a teenager’s perspective, to connect with the seniors in the community and develop a relationship,” she said.

In the remodeled lobby, high-resolution photos of the 1999 tiles will sit alongside new art by Juneau kids. Last month, the city asked kids to submit drawings of their favorite experiences at the pool.

Simonson hopes the new generation of artists will look back fondly on their artwork — and the pool — like she does.

“It kind of is like a church,” Simonson said. “It’s a sanctuary for people to come and exercise and let your stresses go.”

The Augustus Brown Pool will remain closed until at least the end of the year. In the meantime, Juneau residents can swim at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center in the Mendenhall Valley.

painted tiles
An art installation in the new lobby will feature high resolution photos of some of the 1999 tiles. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)
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