For Immediate Release on November 20, 2007
Contact: Jeff Clarke

United States Artists announces awards; three Alaskans receive $50,000 Fellowship

Anchorage - For the second year running, three Alaskans are among the fifty $50,000 winners selected for the national USA Fellowships:  John Haines is a writer from Fairbanks and is also the 2006 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist; Tommy Joseph of Sitka is a Tlingit carver; and Susie Silook, originally from Savoonga, is an Inupiat ivory carver.

"Alaska is blessed to have such talented artists in our communities," said Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan.  "These three will continue doing amazing things for our state."

The three will receive $50,000 unrestricted awards from United States Artists (USA) at a gala at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.  The USA Fellows program supports the nation's finest artists by giving them a chance to reflect upon and further develop their work.

USA was launched in September 2005 with $20 million in seed funding from Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential, and Rasmuson Foundations in response to findings from a study by the Urban Institute.  Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists, funded by 36 of the nation's leading foundations, found that there were a significant number of artists struggling to make ends meet.  USA's mission is to "nurture, support, and strengthen the work of America's finest living artists."

John Haines is the author of more than 10 books of poetry, a collection of essays, and a memoir. He spent more than 20 years homesteading in Alaska, and his work is imbued with his experiences in the wilderness. A former poet laureate of Alaska, he has taught at many universities and has been awarded numerous honors, including a lifetime achievement award from the Library of Congress.

Tommy Joseph creates hybrid carved wooden totems that are imaginative interpretations of creatures, be they fish, animal, or human. He uses stylistic and formal elements drawn from his Tlingit heritage as inspiration to create innovative reinterpretations that comment on contemporary community life. The artist—of Eagle Moiety, Kaagwaantaan Clan—has been actively working in Northwest Coast carving for more than twenty years as an instructor, interpreter, and demonstrator.

Susie Silook is a Yupik/Inupiaq writer, carver, and sculptor. The ancestral ivory dolls of Saint Lawrence, traditionally carved by men, are the basis of her work. While she works in the traditional media of ivory and whalebone, her themes are the contemporary issues confronting Native Alaskans, particularly women, with a specific focus on violence against Native women. Silook also departs from tradition by depicting women in her carvings rather than the animals most commonly rendered by men.

For a complete list of all 2007 Fellowships, click here.

About the Rasmuson Foundation

The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband "E.A." Rasmuson. The Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.