2017 Individual Artist Awards

#AKartists

Fourteen years ago, Rasmuson Foundation surveyed the field of artists and arts organizations about the best way to support arts and culture in Alaska. The answer was nearly unanimous: Put money directly in the hands of artists.

In times of prosperity and times of uncertainty, art has the power to connect us. That’s why the Foundation decided to invest its time and resources in cultivating Alaska’s artists with the creation of the Individual Artist Awards (IAA) program.

The awards are part of a strategy to support the culture of Alaska, the vibrancy of our communities and art itself. As of today, the program has awarded 444 grants, totaling nearly $4 million, all going directly to support Alaska’s artists. The program provides resources for artists to learn new techniques, to connect and collaborate with other artists at workshops and residencies, and to have the time to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

This year, 450 applications were reviewed by a national panel of arts leaders. These panelists were impressed not only by the artistry, but also by the diversity of style and voice shown by Alaska’s artists.

Overview

The 2017 artist presentation necklaces (pictured below) were created by Anchorage sculptor Keren Lowell, a 2016 IAA Fellow.

Project Award

$7,500

For a specific, short-term project that has a clear benefit to the artist and the development of their work.

Fellowship

$18,000

To allow the artist to focus their energy and attention for a one-year period on developing their creative work.

Distinguished Artist

$40,000

For a mature artist of recognized stature with a history of creative excellence and accomplishment in the arts.

Gertrude Svarny - 2017 Distinguished Artist

Gert Svarny, this year’s Distinguished Artist, began her formal career as an artist later than most.

Full Crown Bentwood Hat (Qayaatx̂), Gert Svarny, 2002

During World War II, Svarny was evacuated from her hometown of Unalaska and interned along with nearly 900 other Unangax (Aleut) people. Those who survived and returned home found their communities ransacked and burned. In the documentary film "The Aleut Story," Svarny comments, “We lost lots of elders. I think that’s why our culture just stood still for a long time.”

Svarny painted when she was young, but it wasn’t until the age of 51 that she dedicated her life to her art. Although she is primarily known for her intricate ivory and soapstone sculptures, Svarny is also a respected bentwood artist and weaver.

Little Feather, Gert Svarny, 2016

Through her work and teachings, Svarny has helped to perpetuate Unangan art and culture. In 2008, she received the Governor’s Award for Native Arts. She has been a director of the Institute of Alaska Native Arts and a member of the Board of Regents of the Institute of American Indian Arts. She also served for many years on the Aleutian Arts Council. She was instrumental in preserving Unangan culture classes in the Unalaska schools, and, as a culture bearer for Camp Qungaayux, Unalaska’s annual culture camp, she taught classes in Unangan weaving and design. Her work is housed in numerous permanent collections, including the Southern Plains Indian Museum, the Anchorage Museum and the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Now 87, Svarny continues to be a prolific working artist. “She is much appreciated as a mentor and source of unflagging encouragement to many local and regional artists and writers, both Native and non-Native,” says Sharon Svarny-Livingston, who nominated her mother for the award.

Fellowship and Project Award Recipients

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Fellowship

Project Award

Choreography

Crafts

Folk and Traditional Arts

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Media Arts

Music Composition

Performance Art

Visual Arts

Carmel Anderson

Ketchikan

Visual Arts

Project Award

Anderson will provide a visual narrative of foster children’s experiences, including issues of instability and permanence, loyalty to family, and aging out of the system, through an art installation using 3-D casting.

Earl F. Atchak

Chevak

Folk & Traditional Art

Fellowship

Earl F. Atchak will create masks for a new exhibit. He will construct a standalone studio and identify and train an apprentice to ensure the continuation of his ancestors’ mask-making tradition.

Everett Athorp

Klawock

Folk & Traditional Art

Project Award

Everett Athorp will design and carve a traditional Haida canoe.

Breezy Berryman

Homer

Choreography

Fellowship

Berryman will expand her original dance, Nature’s Walk, and turn it into a film that explores the four seasons, using Alaska’s landscape to inform and inspire the choreography.

Beth Blankenship

Anchorage

Crafts

Fellowship

Blankenship will create a dozen bead and fiber pieces that tell a story of human connection to the natural world and our impact on Alaska’s animals and those who rely on them.

Marian Call

Juneau

Music Composition

Project Award

Call will learn how to digitally master music from her computer, and create an EP of a half-dozen original songs using samples, loops, MIDI, and other digital effects.

Olena Kalytiak Davis

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Fellowship

Davis will develop a novella that straddles the border of poetry and prose, stretching the 14-line sonnet structure to book form and interspersing narrative and verse.

Alanna DeRocchi

Anchorage

Visual Arts

Project Award

DeRocchi will study the landscape and animals of Point Hope, as well as the nature of their life and death as part of the subsistence lifestyle, to inform the creation of clay sculptures for her 2018 solo exhibition at the Anchorage Museum, Collection: A Narrative on Sex, Death & Expectation.

Christy Tengs Fowler

Haines

Music

Project Award

Fowler will hire musicians and vocalists to record 25 original songs and prepare them for publication. The songs will be part of a documentary of her life, Above the Bamboo Room, scheduled to premiere at the Chilkat Center for the Performing Arts in 2018.

Ellen Frankenstein

Sitka

Media Arts

Project Award

Frankenstein will attend a writing workshop and writer’s conference to explore new ways of shaping stories, and will enroll in a course with award-winning cinematographer Bob Elfstom to enhance her skill in the use of lighting in film.

Patt Garrett

McCarthy

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Project Award

Garrett will complete a nine-year writing project on Kate Kennedy, a controversial McCarthy businesswoman during the early 20th century copper bonanza, contrasting her own experiences working in the male-dominated mining field with Kennedy’s.

Erin Gingrich

Anchorage

Visual Arts

Project Award

Gingrich, a carver, painter, and bead worker, will purchase tools that will allow her to participate in Alaska’s artistic community at a professional level.

Erin Coughlin Hollowell

Homer

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Fellowship

Hollowell will explore issues of patriarchy, culture, and how family history shapes us for her third poetry collection, Flung Stone, Dark Wing.

Lily Hope

Juneau

Folk & Traditional Arts

Project Award

Hope will travel to British Columbia to continue her study of Chilkat weaving following the loss of her mother, who was her mentor, in 2016. She will study Chilkat robes at the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology and enroll in a five-day class with a master weaver.

Gail Jackson

Anchorage

Performance Art

Project Award

Jackson will purchase two gongs and train with a master to further her knowledge and expand her skill as a percussionist. She will also attend an intensive course with the Deep Listening Institute to explore listening as it relates to sound. These efforts will culminate in Sound Immersion, an upcoming performance in 2018.

Tom Kizzia

Homer

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Fellowship

Kizzia will complete an essay about history, time, and loss in McCarthy. He will also work on two memoirs – one delving into his family’s history in Arkansas, the second detailing Alaska’s transformation as he experienced it living in a cabin while working as a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.

Wendy Langton

Fairbanks

Choreography

Project Award

Langton will shadow two world-renowned dance companies – Ailey II and the Royal Danish Ballet – to study the creation, setting and rehearsal of contemporary choreography.

Mary Loewen

Kodiak

Choreography

Project Award

Loewen will enroll in hip-hop dance workshops to further her ability in the form and enable her to develop curriculum and choreography in hip-hop movement. She plans to form a hip-hop dance collective and help students use movement to facilitate emotional communication and express messages about social ideas.

Enzina Marrari

Anchorage

Performance Art

Fellowship

Marrari will explore concepts of protection, vulnerability, and personal truths through a series of multimedia performances to be produced for either the stage or a live gallery installation.

Mangyepsa Gyipaayg - Kandi McGilton

Metlakatla

Crafts

Project Award

McGilton will continue her apprenticeship with a master weaver in the endangered traditional Annette Island style of Tsimshian basketry. She will work on replicating items now housed in private collections and museums across the state for a permanent display in the community.

Amy Meissner

Anchorage

Visual Arts

Project Award

Meissner will complete work on her solo exhibit, Inheritance: makers. memory. myth., scheduled to display at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska State Museum in 2018. The exhibit is a cultural narrative of the literal, physical, and emotional work of women, told through a collection of vintage cloths from around the world.

Evan Phillips

Anchorage

Music Composition

Project Award

Phillips will write and record new songs capturing Alaska’s changing seasons. The album, which Phillips will mix in his home studio before it is professionally mastered, will incorporate sounds of nature recorded from his family cabin in Ninilchik.

Jessica Meadowlark Plachta

Haines

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Project Award

Plachta will travel to Eastern Washington for interviews to contribute to her memoir of growing up with “an idealistic group of counter-culture nature freaks” who planted trees for the U.S. Forest Service.

Maria Shell

Anchorage

Crafts

Fellowship

Shell will explore non-linear shapes in 12 large quilts incorporating curves and curved quilt blocks.

Sandy Stolle

Seward

Crafts

Project Award

Stolle will design and build an adjustable easel that will allow for exploration of different woodcarving methods. She will also explore new ways of adding color to carvings.

Karen Stomberg

Fairbanks

Visual Arts

Project Award

Stomberg will use drawings of six wild flowering plant species at three different historical periods – 1899, the mid-20th century and the present day – to explore ideas of continuity, change, and resilience. The completed drawings will be displayed at a solo exhibition of botanical art at the Fairbanks Centennial Center for the Arts in 2018.

Vanessa "Vee" Sweet

Shishmaref

Media Arts

Project Award

Sweet will complete Wild Woman, a four-minute, hand-drawn animated film, with visuals and a slam-poetry narrative that serve as a plea for inclusion, empathy and understanding of diversity.

Agnes Thompson

Anchorage

Folk & Traditional Arts

Fellowship

Thompson will travel to her home village of Atka in the Aleutians to experiment with the local process of gathering and curing grass for Unangan basket weaving. She will collaborate with the director of cultural affairs for the Atka IRA Council to document and preserve the knowledge in a pamphlet.

Lily H. Tuzroyluke

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Project Award

Tuzroyluke will complete her first historical novel, The Sanca. The story tells the tale of an Inupiaq family that survives the smallpox epidemic, only to struggle through the arrival of American commercial whaling in their village.

Miranda Weiss

Homer

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Project Award

Weiss will begin work on her second book, on the topic of snow. Each chapter will use one of the writer’s snow-bound adventures to illuminate the effects of climate change on “this magical form of precipitation.”

Merna Wharton

Fairbanks

Folk & Traditional Arts

Project Award

Wharton will purchase animal pelts and other supplies needed to sew one adult and one child-sized Yup’ik parka. She will also create a website to document the process and serve as a tutorial on how to create the traditional garment.

Nathaniel Wilder

Anchorage

Visual Arts

Project Award

Wilder will attend a workshop in visual storytelling and documentary photography to help shape a narrative arc for his ongoing project, a three-year documentation of the spring bowhead whale hunt in Point Hope.

Itzel Yarger-Zagal

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Project Award

Yarger-Zagal will complete a book of bilingual poems drawing upon her experiences emigrating from Mexico and the stories of other migrants in Anchorage.

Hannah Yoter

Anchorage

Music Composition

Project Award

Yoter will compose original Americana songs for her second full-length album with her eponymous Hannah Yoter Band.

Video featuring artist work

The Individual Artist Awards Program

These awards provide artists the resources to concentrate and reflect on their work, to immerse themselves in creative endeavors, and to experiment, explore, and develop their artistry more fully. It is our hope that these investments result in substantial contributions to Alaska’s culture, the vibrancy of our communities, and to art itself.

Applications, the Distinguished Artist nomination form, and guidelines are available online or by request. Want to know more about the program and application process? Visit www.rasmuson.org/iaa.