Foundation announces six artist awardees from Northern and Western Alaska

Rasmuson Foundation has announced 35 artists in 18 Alaska communities as 2019 Individual Artist Award recipients, including three Project Award recipients and three Fellows from Western and Northern Alaska.

These artists were selected by a national panel from a statewide pool of 317 applicants. In addition, the Foundation’s 2019 Distinguished Artist, Richard Nelson of Sitka, was announced earlier this week.

Neva Mathias (Chevak), Stephen Quacung Blanchett (Anchorage/Bethel), and Jerome Saclamana (Anchorage/Nome) were selected as Fellows. Fellowships of $18,000 are awarded to mid-career and mature artists to focus their energy and attention on developing creative work over a 12-month period.

The awards and fellowships provide critical financial support for working artists in all disciplines and genres, in styles ranging from traditional to experimental.

Fellow Neva Mathias is best-known for her dolls made of sealskin, leather, grass and other natural materials. She will prepare sealskin hides, travel to Anchorage for supplies, and seek opportunities to teach her craft to younger artists. “The material products for my dolls are so limited out here in rural Alaska,” she writes. “Getting to Anchorage to shop for my artistic needs is so rare because it is so expensive to travel from Chevak. To be able to shop only for my art supplies would be once in a lifetime adventure for me!”

Stephen Qacung Blanchett lives in Anchorage and calls Bethel home. Blanchett describes himself as a traditional dancer who likes to push the envelope of tradition. He aims to interpret Yup’ik and broader Inuit traditions with joy and sincerity. He will further Alaska Native dance through creation of original works, collaboration with mask makers on contemporary designs, and performance at dance festivals. With online and digital technology, he will teach traditions of music, dance and performance across Alaska. Blanchett previously received a Fellowship in 2016.

Jerome Saclamana lives in Anchorage and calls Nome his home. He is known for his interpretation of traditional King Island forms in ivory and bone, connecting to his ancestral lands. He will research museum collections in the Lower 48 and study with other carvers in preparation for creating new work — in wood.

Katie Basile (Bethel), Marie Meade (Anchorage/Nunapitchuk) and Marjorie Kunaq Tahbone (Nome) will receive Project Awards of $7,500, which support individuals at all stages of their creative careers for specific, short-term projects.

Katie Basile of Bethel will explore climate change in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta through portraits and interviews with elders, illustrating the danger of disconnection from traditional knowledge in the Yup’ik prophecy, “the weather will follow its people.”

Several of this year’s awardees will explore the impacts of climate change on Alaska. Basile writes, “I am certain that the knowledge needed for a life well-lived is ancient and simple, and revealed over and over again throughout history. My work aims to capture hints and small pieces of this knowledge. A Yup’ik prophecy I hear over and over again says that ‘The weather will follow its people,’ meaning that human behavior impacts the natural world around us. …My interest in documenting the changing climate is specific to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and what happens when we — as human beings — are disconnected from past knowledge and experience.”

Marie Meade of Anchorage has been studying, singing and teaching Yup’ik music for 50 years. She was raised in the Southwestern Alaska village of Nunapitchuk and hopes to share the music of her heritage with the world. She will collaborate with others on a CD of traditional Yup’ik songs accompanied by modern instruments.

Marjorie Kunaq Tahbone of Nome will create Iñupiaq fancy fur parkas with patterns from her ancestral homeland in Wales, Alaska, using hides from eight different Arctic animals. She will learn and teach traditional sewing, sustaining valuable cultural knowledge.

Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, E.A. Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.