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2021 Individual Artist Awards

2021 Individual Artist Awards

Welcome to our online feature about the 2021 Individual Artist Award recipients. A panel of national artists and art leaders from outside of Alaska picked 25 Project Awards and 10 Fellowships from about 300 applications. An Alaska panel selected the Distinguished Artist. Some of the artists work in traditional art forms, some choose modern or experimental ones, and others combine methods and disciplines. This year’s artists give us new ways to see and appreciate our world. Explore here to learn more about all the 2021 awardees.

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Ernestine Hayes — 2021 Distinguished Artist

A single $40,000 annual award honors a mature artist of recognized stature with decades of creative excellence and accomplishment in the arts.

Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes(Photo by Pat Race)

Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes is a writer and professor emerita at the University of Alaska Southeast. Born in Juneau in what is called the “old Indian village” on the land of the A’akw Kwaan Lingít, she says her path was framed by place and circumstance: village, mountain, colonization. She is of the Eagle moiety, a member of the Wolf House of the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Lingít (Tlingit) nation. Her writing is critically acclaimed and rich with the complexities of Indigenous identity. One of her best-known books is “Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir” (University of Arizona Press, 2006), for which she received the American Book Award. She was Alaska State Writer Laureate from 2017 to 2019. Her published works include poetry, a children’s book, creative nonfiction and fiction.

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Fellowships

$18,000 awards allow mid-career or mature artists to focus their energy and attention for a one-year period of creative development.

Tricia Brown Tricia Brown work sample

Tricia Brown

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Brown will research and write a creative nonfiction book about Irene Sherman, known as the “Queen of Fairbanks.” Brown in 1988 first wrote about the woman who roamed Fairbanks streets. She will interview newly discovered relatives to learn more about Irene’s life.

Laura Carpenter Laura Carpenter work sample

Laura Carpenter

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Carpenter will finalize research and attend a writing retreat to complete “The Storm Inside Me,” a queer young adult fantasy set 20,000 years ago. The novel centers around a girl's journey to break a dangerous curse and save those she loves.

Gail Jackson Gail Jackson work sample

Gail Jackson

Anchorage

Performance Arts

Jackson, a percussionist in Anchorage, will record Southcentral Alaska nature sounds to use in live performances and then compile the resulting tracks into a CD. Jackson will also facilitate a residency program at a local grammar school to teach students about sound and vibration.

Jill Osier Jill Osier work sample

Jill Osier

Fairbanks

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Osier is creating her second full-length poetry collection. Osier says the manuscript of 48+ poems is inspired by life in Alaska, exploring the physical and emotional distances accompanying love and loss and featuring the winter landscape of the North.

June Simeonoff Pardue June Simeonoff Parduework sample

June Simeonoff Pardue

Sutton

Folk & Traditional Arts

Pardue will study ethnographic fish skin pieces and traditional stitching to improve her sewing skills. She will harvest willows and turn fish skins into leather to sew a contemporary Alutiiq garment reflecting designs created by her ancestors.

Sienna Shields Sienna Shields sample

Sienna Shields

Anchorage

Crafts

Shields plans to use beadwork to create space for people to ponder things like quantum connections, DNA, memory, prayer and more. Using hundreds of thousands of beads and miles of wire, she will create an immersive bead installation by hand comprising nine thematic “rooms.”

Steven Stone Sr Steven Stone work sample

Steven Stone Sr.

Hooper Bay

Crafts

Stone mentors young people, teaching them traditional arts and crafts, making tools such as harpoons and ulus, and guiding them in the Yup’ik way of life. He will expand his shop, allowing for use of bigger elements and more creativity.

X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell  work sample

X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell

Áakʼw Ḵwáan Aaní (Juneau)

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Twitchell will collaborate with fellow Indigenous screenwriters as creative consultants to write a screenplay in the Lingít — Tlingit — language. The project explores the story of two brothers, whose knowledge of the land helped them make it home after escaping a Native American boarding school.

Merna Wharton Merna Wharton work sample

Merna Wharton

Akiachak

Folk & Traditional Arts

Wharton plans to research traditional Yup’ik fur parka styles by traveling to museums and talking directly with families to replicate designs not made for generations. She will document and share her work with the community.

Kenneth White Kenneth White work sample

Kenneth White

Saxman

Folk & Traditional Arts

White will invest in equipment allowing him to share stories of his traditional experiences of storytelling, dancing, carving and drawing. White will make videos of carvings and also create 3D models to use for reference and educational purposes.

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Project Awards

Awards of $7,500 support emerging, mid-career and mature artists in specific, short-term projects.

Maïté Agopian

Maïté Agopian

Fairbanks

Performance Arts

Agopian credits puppetry with “power to touch, open new doors, and enhance learning environments.” She plans to build puppets and create a series of stories on the theme of climate change to be performed around an exhibit called “In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories.”

Sydney Akagi

Sydney Akagi

Juneau

Folk & Traditional Arts

Akagi is a Tlingit weaver who has studied traditional methods including Ravenstail and Chilkat. To further her knowledge and help preserve these art forms, she will create a full-size ceremonial robe, documenting her work with photos, illustrations and writing.

Polly Andrews

Polly Andrews

Chevak

Folk & Traditional Arts

Andrews combines songs, stories, spoken word and humor “to showcase unique values, strengths and resiliency of Alaska Native people.” She plans to create music inspired by traditional Cup’ik drum song combined with contemporary styles.

Kendra Arciniega

Kendra Arciniega

Anchorage

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Arciniega says she is a “storyteller and advocate at heart.” She plans to create a scripted web series that tells the unique interwoven connections of LGBTQ+ BIPOC communities in her hometown of Anchorage.

Rejoy Armamento

Rejoy Armamento

Anchorage

Visual Arts

Armamento will be creating a 300-square-foot mural as part of the Mountain View Mural Walk, a dedicated public art project developed with community members to “reflect the unique character of the country’s most culturally diverse neighborhood.”

Bridget Brunner

Bridget Brunner

Valdez

Crafts

Brunner is a stained-glass artist who is reimaging the art form. She plans to construct a new stained-glass studio to support the growth of her business, creating a display area and space for community classes.

Katie Ione Craney

Katie Ione Craney

Deishú (Haines)

Multidiscipline

Craney will create two-dimensional visual representations of audio recordings in a body of work focused on human hearing and sight. This exploration of ableism, bodies and boundaries will include audio and written descriptions including in Braille.

KC Crowley

KC Crowley

Anchorage

Multidiscipline

Crowley will create books from Alaska-based materials, reducing dependence on outside sources by using sustainably collected plants, fish skins and other elements. Hand-printed books will be unique, accessible pieces of art.

Dumile

Dumile

Fairbanks

Music Composition

This alternative R&B duo from Fairbanks performs “sno-fi,” a sound synthesizing the circumpolar North with soul, jazz and funk. The musicians will purchase recording equipment for their home studio to track songs for a full-length debut album.

Dumile: Scott Joyce, project director, guitar, bass, keys and percussion; and MaKaela Dickerson, project lead, vocals, keys and percussion.

Sharon Filyaw

Sharon Filyaw

Ketchikan

Crafts

Filyaw will purchase lapidary tools to gain more creative control cutting and shaping stones used in her art. She also will buy camera equipment and a lightbox to document baskets and sculptures of collected pine needle and stone.

Silas Firth

Silas Firth

Homer

Media Arts

Firth will film and produce a documentary about the little-known 1918 sinking of the SS Princess Sophia. Firth will travel to learn more about how and where the ship struck a reef and the 350 people lost in the disaster.

Ray Gamradt

Ray Gamradt

Palmer

Visual Arts

Gamradt will create a series of hand-framed large charcoal pieces depicting hunting, fishing, berry picking and other contemporary Alaska subsistence activities. He says the artwork will “embrace the subtlety in how people interact with the Alaskan landscape.”

Ishmael Angaluuk Hope

Ishmael Angaluuk Hope

Dzantik'ihéeni (Juneau)

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Hope is a Tlingit poet who also works in video games and film. He will complete "Yéi Áyá Yaxh Shutaan: This is How It Ends,” written in the Tlingit oral epic style. The speculative fiction narrative, in Tlingit and English, tells the story of a Native man and his family's experience with the world's end.

Joshua Jeffries / Naessi

Joshua Jeffries / Naessi

Anchorage

Music Composition

Jeffries will create a full-length album of music using sounds recorded in Alaska’s wilderness and his own compositions. The resulting “digital instruments” will be available online for others to download.

Merritt Johnson

Merritt Johnson

Sitka

Visual Arts

Johnson will create sculptures, employing weaving, casting and found objects in addition to paintings and work on paper. Johnson says the work considers the connection of female-identifying bodies and land as “locations of creation and sites of resistance and struggle.”

Maija Katak Lukin

Maija Katak Lukin

Kotzebue

Folk & Traditional Arts

Lukin, an Iñupiaq skin sewer, will create a full-length traditional fur parka using the same materials, furs and tools that her grandmother used in Sisualik, an old Inuit village. The process will be documented in film and photos as a tutorial.

Kendell Macomber

Kendell Macomber

Fairbanks

Choreography

Macomber will build a new, safe space for people to learn aerial arts, gaining strength and confidence. With safety assured, she be able to focus on creativity, choreography, teaching and new ways of movement.

Larisa Manewal

Larisa Manewal

Sitka

Visual Arts

Manewal will conduct interviews, including with tribal members and allies known as Herring Protectors, to create a body of photography, conversations and more to amplify the Panhandle perspective on Pacific herring.

Bjørn Olson

Bjørn Olson

Homer

Media Arts

Olson will purchase lightweight, dependable and professional equipment to capture video and audio of travels through Alaska. His goal is to bring viewers closer to the cultural and natural world encounters he experiences.

'Quki' Golga Oscar

"Quki" Golga Oscar

Kasigluk

Folk & Traditional Arts

Oscar, who is Yup’ik, will explore decolonization, resilience and seeking one’s identity in Western systems. He plans to make photographic portraits and create Indigenous clothing — including a fancy parka, mukluks and five headdresses.

Tony Perelli

Tony Perelli

Eagle River

Crafts

Perelli, a woodcraft artist, will purchase equipment to expand production of hand-turned eating utensils including bowls and cups and other objects using sustainably sourced local materials. The resulting exhibit will be called “The Natural Setting.”

Ralph Sara

Ralph Sara

Bethel

Multidiscipline

Sara, a Yup'ik and Sámi media artist, will create an audiobook and soundtrack based on his early life and recovery from the harms of alcohol titled "The Anonymous Eskimo.” Through storytelling and self-composed music, Sara will explore “redemption through recovery.”

Christina Seine

Christina Seine

Wasilla

Literary Arts/Scriptworks

Seine plans to purchase a used cargo van, renovate it into a quiet, private writing studio, and complete the research for her historical fiction novel. She will use the van to visit communities surrounding Resurrection Bay, where “Bodies of Water” is set.

Melissa Shaginoff

Melissa Shaginoff

Kenai & Chickaloon

Multidiscipline

Shaginoff will create a series of workshops and a performance piece around moose and caribou hide work from an Indigenous perspective. She also will help establish a community by hiring teachers and elders to share knowledge.

Karen Stomberg

Karen Stomberg

Fairbanks

Visual Arts

Stomberg is a botanical artist. As part of an Alaska-based consortium, she will observe a single birch tree and its surroundings over the course of a year to create detailed drawings, monoprints and a soundscape for the group exhibition and book, “In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories.”

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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 for the 2022 Project Awards and Fellowships open Dec. 15, 2021, and close March 1, 2022. Nominations for the next Distinguished Artist will be accepted starting Oct. 1 and will close Dec. 1. Forms and guidelines are available online or by request. Want to know more about the program and application process? Visit www.rasmuson.org/iaa.

Made by Social Good Studio in Anchorage, Alaska.