Ron Senungetuk, visual artist, curator, Inupiaq scholar, and former University of Alaska Fairbanks professor of Art and Design has been named 2008 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist. An exhibit of one of his pieces in Second Life is projected on a screen behind him. (Rasmuson Foundation photograph)
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We are mourning the loss this week of Iñupiaq carver and metalsmith Ron Senungetuk, who founded the Native Art Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and was the Foundation’s 2008 Distinguished Artist. He died on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 87.

Senungetuk was born in Wales and first studied art as a teenager at Sitka’s Mount Edgecumbe High School. He went on to study at the School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and at the Statens Håndverks og Kunstindustri Skole, in Oslo, Norway, as a Fulbright scholar.

Senungetuk moved to Homer in 1998 after his retirement from UAF. Homer public radio station KBBI aired a remembrance by artist Rika Mouw that described his contributions to Alaska and the arts. He was an original member of the Alaska State Council on the Arts. His work is in private collections all over the world. He created large public art installations.

He explored silversmithing then “returned his focus to woodworking, carving marvelous panels of traditionally inspired subjects in a truly contemporary expression,” Mouw said. “He was a meticulous carver and worked in a meticulous studio expressing people, animals, celebration, light, the ocean and pattern.”

The Anchorage Museum acknowledged the loss on Facebook Thursday:

See a gallery of his work, watch a short film about him and learn more at our Distinguished Artist special feature.

We are grateful for all Ron Senungetuk did for Alaska.