As an artist living in Alaska, I face some challenges.
- Moose on the road.
- Sodden snow gear and missing gloves. Finding moldy missing gloves.
- Red-eye flights in and out of Anchorage.
- A mild insinuation that this distance from major art hubs will keep me from entering their realm.
- Sucking it up for shipping expenses and insurance, because that time I cheaped out, I got burned by an agent with an overzealous box cutter.
- Accepting that local options for commercial fabrics include Jo-Ann Fabrics and a handful of quilt shops (and while the latter offer lovely items, I'm not currently inspired to work with them, maybe later, but Jo-Ann F., you can take a hike. Unless I need polar fleece or interfacing or embroidery floss or nylon webbing or serger thread or stickers or 90% off Halloween decorations or cinnamon-scented-headache-inducing imported pinecones, in which case you're back in the game).
- Distance can be bridged through the internet, and an acceptance that 4:30 am Alaska time is 8:30 am eastern standard.
- Shipping can be budgeted for and smarter decisions can and should be made regarding where to exhibit and how often.
- Materials can and should be considered differently, sustainably. The fabric I love most continues to come to me through generous donations of vintage linens from all over the world and cut up thrift store finds. And sometimes I suck it up and order online from New York.
- Moldy gloves require bleach.
But I'll tell you right now, all scrappiness aside, what sets the tone for art and artists in Alaska is the class act support of the Rasmuson Foundation. In 2016, they awarded $14.6 million dollars in grants spread across various programs -- from environment and research, to arts, culture, humanities and organizational development.
(You can learn more about the history of the Rasmuson Foundation here.)
In your artistic search for nation-wide grant opportunities, perhaps you've noticed there aren't many individual artist awards out there, and this is a shame. Because we need them. Not because we're lazy, or don't want to work (do you know any artists who don't work their asses off?) or because we're asking for a hand out. We need support for the same reason artists for centuries have needed support -- because there is rarely a price appropriate for creativity, and it's easier to breathe when someone's hand is resting on your shoulder.
This year, 450 Alaskan artists applied for this type of individual artist award through the Rasmuson Foundation and 35 artists received them. I'm beyond honored to say I was one of those artists, receiving a $7500 Individual Artist Project Award in support of the Inheritance Project. This year's $18,000 Fellowships fell into the disciplinary categories of Choreography, Crafts, Folk & Traditional Arts, Literary Arts/Scriptworks & Performance Art. While a number of good friends received Fellowships (and Project Awards, too), I was thrilled three of us happened to also be members of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). This trio includes Maria Shell and Beth Blankenship and me.
So, not only were we honored for our work as artists, we were honored for work as textile artists.
I'm incredibly grateful and blown away by the support I've received for the Inheritance Project -- strangers, friends, the Anchorage Museum, the Alaska State Museum, the Sustainable Arts Foundation and now the Rasmuson Foundation. That's a lot of skin in the game for something that didn't exist 2 years ago.