Alaskan Life Meets Second Life®

On Monday 12 May 2008 at 12pm SLT, the Rasmuson Gallery of Alaskan Artists officially opened on the University of Alaska Fairbanks island Rhetoria. The art gallery was launched by the Rasmuson Foundation, a private foundation that works as a catalyst to promote a better life for Alaskans by supporting not-for-profit organizations in the pursuit of their goals.

The gallery features grantees of the Individual Artist Awards, which is a program of the Arts and Culture Initiative, a 10-year $20 million investment to increase the arts in Alaska. These awards fund individual Alaskan artists at various stages of their career whose work is defined by excellence and reflects any of the diverse and cultural and aesthetic communities in Alaska. The awards provide artists with the resources to concentrate and reflect on their work, to immerse themselves in a creative endeavor, and to experiment, explore, and develop their artistry more fully. To date the Foundation has granted approximately $960,000 to over 132 artists.

The winner of the $25,000 Distinguished Artist Award was unveiled at the opening as Ron Senungetuk, a visual artist, curator, Inupiaq, and former University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor of Art and Design.

Six artists have also been selected to receive $12,000 Fellowship Awards:
• Carl Battreall, photographer (Anchorage).
• Nicholas Galanin, multidiscipline artist working in performance art, video installation, film, sculpture, painting and photography (Sitka).
• Sonya Kelliher-Combs, visual artist working in mixed-media creating two and three dimensional works (Anchorage).
• Philip Munger music composer (Wasilla).
• Linda Smogor, photographer (Homer).
• Vladimir Zhikhartsev, plein air watercolor painter (Fairbanks).

Individual Artist Project grants have been awarded to:
• Audrey Armstrong, $5,000, folk/traditional artist working with fish skin (Anchorage).
• Michael Engelhard, $5,000, literary artist (Fairbanks).
• Clara Haley, $5,000, folk/traditional artist Northwest Coast cedar bark weaver (Wrangell).
• Denise Heimel, $5,000, visual artist working in clay to create sculptural forms (Wasilla).
• Caroline Kroll, $5,000, folk/traditional artist, wood carver, weaver (Anchorage).
• Rosemary McGuire, $3,145, literary artist (Cordova).
• Christopher Miller, $4,999, photographer (Juneau).
• Leslie Hsu Oh, $5,000, literary artist (Eagle River).
• Roswell Schaeffer Sr., $5,000, folk/traditional artist working with wood, ivory and bone craft (Kotzebue).
• Teresa Shannon, $5,000, craft artist working in clay (Fairbanks).
• Ruth Sorensen, $5,000, oil painter (Anchorage).
• Tasha Walen, $5,000, craft artist working in glass (Juneau).
• Sheila Wyne, $5,000, multidiscipline, multi-media artist (Anchorage).

Interview with Vice President of the Rasmuson Foundation: Jeffronius Criss

Josephina: What have past winners gone on to achieve?
Jeffronius: One of the recipients, Andromeda Romano-Lax, landed a 6-figure book deal for a project she was working on. Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams is the first Alaskan to be profiled in the New Yorker since Johan McPhee’s “Coming into the Country” 30 years ago. Andromeda is in Anchorage. Our distinguished artists have a lifetime of achievement already, the rest are working on either a particular project or engaged in intensive fellowship experiences.

Josephina: Has there been a visible impact on the Alaskan community?
Jeffronius: At one level, the visible impact is that 132 Alaskan artists have been recognized for their substantial contributions to Alaska, we’re undertaking more substantive evaluation as we speak regarding the program. Once we’ve concluded our more formal evaluation, I’d be happy to share that if it is of interest. The Foundation hopes that these investments in individual artists will result in substantial contributions to the culture of Alaska, the vibrancy of Alaskan communities and to art itself.

Josephina: What made you decide to turn to Second Life® to exhibit the works of art?
Jeffronius: We turned to Second Life® because it is an incubator and center of creativity. Our work in Second Life® allows us to tell stories of Alaska, its issues and those of our grantees. The people who do the work to improve the quality of life in Alaska, in new and exciting ways to both current and new audiences, and we consider this to be a more immersive visceral experience than the Web. The gallery is a window into creativity in Alaska and the work here clearly reflects the influence of place and culture on expression, there will be both music and video streaming here shortly.


Written: 16 May 2008