Friendly reminder for all artists: deadline for the 2018 Individual Artist Awards (IAA) is Thursday, March 1. Let the words of two-time recipient Christy NaMee Eriksen inspire you.  

Name: Christy NaMee Eriksen
IAA Discipline: Presentation/interpretation
IAA Career Stage: Emerging
Awards: Project Awards in 2013 and 2016

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?

A neighbor was crossing the street and instead of saying “Hello!” or “Have a nice day!” she yelled at me, “Keep writing!” Like it was simultaneously a greeting and a wish and a duty. It was so casual. And so urgent. I want to write poems like that.

Who is your favorite Alaska artist and what do you admire about that person?

I am a huge fan of Ernestine Hayes, a writer and professor at UAS (University of Alaska Southeast)! Her tongue is sharp and elegant. She knows who she is and what she wants, and this clarity shows through in her work, 175%. Ernestine can twist a word into an entire water cycle. I’d listen to her describe a slug.

What was the happiest moment of your life as an artist?

I’m a teaching artist. I remember one day we brought all the classes I’d been working with together for a final showcase. It was an open mic, followed by a competitive poetry slam. In my residencies, I focus on poetry as a path to community building, not necessarily as a path to winning. Still, it was a contest, and someone won. His name was Max. He was a third grader, small for his age and one of the youngest students in the slam. The first thing Max did was turn to the person who took second place and shook their hand. Then all eight classes surrounded Max to congratulate him, practically lifting him off the floor. I remember him in the middle of a huge crowd, arms outstretched to high-five him, or hug him, or even touch his shoulder. It looked just like on tv when someone scores the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Humble poet, a champion; a competition turned into one team. I took a ​selfie with him. I’m his #1 fan.

Time’s almost up! Remember to submit your completed IAA application by Thursday, March 1.