It’s our favorite way of sharing Alaska.
Find out why below.
Meaningful conversations on the Alaska Railroad train. A barefoot walk on the tundra. Dancing to the beat of Tlingit drums. A once over, but not lightly, of Alaska’s challenges and resources.
Our 22nd Annual Grantmakers Tour wrapped up Aug. 17 after a packed week that seems to improve every year.
“It was exhausting. It was exhilarating. It was enlightening,” said Jamie Bennett, of ArtPlace America. And, he said: “It was heaven.” ArtPlace, a collaboration of foundations, federal agencies and banks that works for community development change through arts and culture, has invested $6 million in Alaska over the past seven years, and Bennett has visited Alaska for grantmaking. Yet it was on the Rasmuson Foundation tour that he for the first time visited rural Alaska and immersed in an experience like no other.
He described learning about “the complex mosaic that is Alaska.”
Through the tour, we share Alaska’s people and places — and its nonprofit and tribal organizations — with leaders of major grantmaking groups. The idea came about as a way to encourage more investment in Alaska. If we show grantmakers from outside of Alaska the real Alaska, will they invest more? The result is hard to quantify but our conservative estimate is that over the years, the tour has leveraged some $112 million in investments from outside grantmakers.
We landed first in Yakutat, where we were greeted by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Mayor Ralph Wolfe and danced with the Mount St. Elias Dancers.
In Anchorage, we toured the new Rasmuson Wing at the Anchorage Museum, lunched with Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program students, and visited the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Southcentral Foundation. We met with artists in their studios. A train ride to Indian provided a fun evening – and meaningful conversations – with leaders of more than 100 Alaska nonprofits. The group met with Gov. Bill Walker at Covenant House and U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan at separate receptions.
Board Chair Ed Rasmuson, Vice Chair Cathy Rasmuson, and members Adam Gibbons, Natasha von Imhof, Aaron Schutt, Jason Metrokin, Matt Hirschfeld, Rebecca Brice Henderson, and Mike Navarre connected with the grantmakers and often spoke at various events.
When rough weather in Bethel sidelined a planned excursion to the Kuskokwim River village of Napaskiak, Michelle DeWitt, executive director of our long-time partner Bethel Community Services Foundation, took the tour to the tundra, where participants walked barefoot and picked berries. We stopped at Prudhoe Bay to show them the economic engine of oil development. In Utqiaġvik, a hardy fivesome dipped into the Arctic Ocean. Across Cook Inlet at Silver Salmon Creek fish camp, they caught salmon, saw bears and rode four-wheelers.
As the tour wrapped up, some participants commented that Alaska is a state of contrasts. They were impressed to see internationally recognized programs and also were taken by the size of the problems in areas such as suicide, sexual abuse and alcoholism.
Participants this year were Jamie Bennett of ArtPlace America, Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (and wife Jeanne), Paul Hollie of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, Maurine Knighton of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Nancy McKinstry of Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Kevin Murphy of ExxonMobil Foundation, Mary Wenzel of Wells Fargo, and David Willis of Perigee Fund.
It couldn’t happen without a host of sponsors. Big thanks to all who helped this year: Alaska Airlines, The Alaska Community Foundation, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska Railroad Corp., Arctic Slope Regional Corp., BP, Cook Inlet Region Inc., The CIRI Foundation, ConocoPhillips Alaska, ExxonMobil, First Alaskans Institute, The Foraker Group, Hotel Captain Cook, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Municipality of Anchorage, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Southcentral Foundation, State of Alaska, United Way of Anchorage, Wells Fargo, and Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.