Fifteen 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. With those words as inspiration, the Foundation created the Individual Artist Awards (IAA) program.

In times of prosperity and times of uncertainty, art has the power to connect us.

Since 2004 and counting the 2018 recipients, we have awarded 480 grants totaling $4.35 million, all going directly to support Alaska’s artists. That’s 15 Distinguished Artists, now a $40,000 award; 124 artist fellowships, currently at $18,000; and 341 project awards of $7,500 each.

We now are writing a new chapter. In a 2016 survey, artists told us of needs beyond financial support. They wanted help promoting their work and developing themselves as professional artists. We embrace those areas too.

We offer workshops by Creative Capital, which specializes in helping innovative and adventuresome artists develop the business side of their field. We’ve added features to rasmuson.org to strengthen it as a venue for artists and art lovers. We launched a new online gallery showcasing all of the Distinguished Artists. One highly accomplished artist a year receives this award for a long history of creative excellence. We also are promoting mid-career and mature artists who receive fellowships for intensive artistic explorations, and those who receive project awards, granted to artists at any stage in their career for a short, specific work. Last year we unveiled a special web feature highlighting all of the 2017 recipients and did the same for the 2018 recipients. We share successes on our social media channels: art shows and book releases, CDs and live performances.

Through a new collaboration with 49 Writers, you will be hearing more about our IAA recipients in coming months and years.

Almost 400 artists applied for our 2018 awards. Panels of judges from outside Alaska evaluated works long distance then huddled for three days in Anchorage to select 10 fellows and 25 project award recipients. Selection of the Distinguished Artist is a separate process, explained here.

The awards first given out in 2004 are part of a strategy to support the culture of Alaska, the vibrancy of our communities and art itself.

The full slate of 2018 IAA recipients was announced May 11.