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Shumaker named 2014 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist


ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Fairbanks writer Peggy Shumaker has been named the 2014 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist. The $40,000 award, announced today in Anchorage, recognizes an artist with stature and a history of creative excellence. Shumaker is the eleventh Alaskan artist to receive the award, and she joins a prestigious list of previous winners including Teri Rofkar (2013), Kes Woodward (2012), Ray Troll (2011), John Luther Adams (2010), Nathan Jackson (2009), Ronald Senungetuk (2008), Rie Munoz (2007), Delores Churchill (2006), John Haines (2005) and Sylvester Ayek (2004).

“Peggy Shumaker’s works are vivid, visual and, at times, visceral,” said Jayson Smart, Rasmuson Foundation program officer. “Her medium of choice isn’t oil, acrylic or watercolor. She paints with words. Poetic words. The kind that create indelible images in our minds.”

Shumaker’s poems have been published throughout this country and in Europe, Asia and Australia. Her poetry has covered subjects as diverse as rainforests, hidden rivers, glaciers, deserts and a memoir about the fragile human psyche and its immense capacity for forgiveness. She served as the Alaska State Writer Laureate for 2010–2012. Shumaker is a professor emerita and a lecturer who has shared her knowledge with numerous students and poets-in-training. She was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.

In addition to the Distinguished Artist Award, Rasmuson Foundation also awarded 25 Project Grants (worth up to $7,500 each) and ten Fellowships (worth up to $18,000 each). These artists were chosen from a total of 274 applicants, whose applications were judged by an esteemed national panel of artists and arts leaders.

This year’s winners represent 13 different communities across Alaska including Anchorage, Klawock, Ester, Fairbanks, Barrow, Homer, Juneau, Soldotna, North Pole, Haines, Ketchikan, Nome and Sitka.

2014 Fellows

Dave Galanin is a Tlingit carver from Sitka. His experience has involved precious metals and jewelry creations. David will use this award to, in his words, “Take a step forward” to bring his artwork to new levels. This will include large-scale sculptures of a copper rattle and a copper mask. David will then photograph and document work and create a website to archive his projects.

Nicholas Galanin will use his award to realize a large solo exhibition and traveling body of work, which will eventually become a monograph publication. The work will take form through customary techniques such as woodcarving, jewelry and skin and fur sewing. Nicholas has confirmed solo shows in New Zealand, Vancouver, B.C. and London. Nicholas hails from Sitka.

Yngvil Vatn Guttu is a composer and musician living in Anchorage. She will be creating a jazz composition “Welcome (to the) Human Race,” a collection of pieces for a contemporary ensemble, exploring interpretations of the words “human” and “race.” This award will enable her to expand the size of her ensemble and allow for more composing time and rehearsals, as well as workshops with peer input. Ultimately, Yngvil will release an album.

Arlo Hannigan will create a new sub-genre of world music. Working with members of the King Island community, he will produce an Alaska-world folk album, emphasizing the sub-Arctic musical landscape. In this quest, he will merge northern sound with the impassioned vocalizations and traditional drumming of King Island. Arlo is from Nome and a previous Individual Artist Award recipient.

George Demientieff Holly, of Soldotna, will spend a year engaging in artistic pursuits honoring the memory of his language and song mentors, who were split willow root weavers, an art now practiced almost exclusively by his cultural group, Deg Hit’an Athabascan. George will conduct interviews and document the split willow root baskets at the Anchorage Museum and the Fairbanks Museum of the North. Additionally, he will attend a workshop in Japan training in the art of katazome.

Amy Johnson, of Anchorage, will make a short film that is truly global. She’s formed a team that includes a sound artist in Berlin, engineers in Alaska, a musical technician and dressmaker in Seattle and other international media artists. Her art film will use the Alaska landscape as a metaphor to reflect the interior of our lives and will be representative of contemporary conceptual work from the state.

Amy Meissner feels that receiving this fellowship offers not only the means and affordability of time, but also the elevated inner status of “artist,” which she finds to be a great motivator. She plans to use this opportunity to create contemporary textile designs using traditional quilting and embroidery techniques. Amy resides in Anchorage.

Mavis Muller is well known in Homer for gifting her creations to the community. She will create a 30-page color booklet titled “Something has Ended. Something has Begun,” to document her many interactive community art projects- namely basket sculptures woven with natural materials from the local countryside. This is Mavis’ second Fellowship Award and third award in total.

Sheryl Maree Reily is a contemporary artist working in a variety of visual media, currently expressed as sculpture and installations. She wants to pursue large work for large spaces and plans to exhibit in spaces beyond her immediate surroundings of Ester, Alaska, and return with insights to share with the community. Sheryl is a previous recipient of an Individual Artist Award.

Michael Walsh is a Homer-based filmmaker who approaches his medium as a fine artist. This award will help Michael upgrade and modernize his equipment as he continues to explore and showcase contemporary artists in Alaska through monographs. Michael is well known in Alaska film and art circles, having worked with AMIPA, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and many of Alaska’s finest galleries and arts organizations. Michael is a previous recipient of an Individual Artist Award.

2014 Project Awards

Shehla Anjum is a writer who will be completing a series of essays that reflect on the challenges arising from life in two very different cultures, the Islamic culture of Pakistan and the Western culture of the U.S. Shehla lives in Anchorage.

Everett Athorp is an artist based in Klawock. He will use his award to build a studio, enabling him to pursue his carving and form line design work. Everett’s hope is that this will not only expand his workspace, but also his creativity.

Tracy Anna Bader is an Anchorage-based multi-media artist who will be creating awareness of critical environmental issues through a body of work using discarded plastic-based food packaging. Her project will culminate in exhibitions of her work.

Teeka Ballas plans to discover and tell the story of her father through a multidisciplinary cross genre composition of literary memoir, audio slide show and ethnographic research art documentary. Teeka lives in Anchorage.

Breezy Berryman, a choreographer in Homer, will stage an evening of modern dance at the Homer High School Mariner Theater. This production will incorporate video images of Alaska’s natural environment and infuse her interpretations of these images into kinetic movement.

Nicholas Bradford, an aspiring Anchorage-based filmmaker, will make his directorial debut with a short film about the life cycle of a raven, through a first-person point-of-view of the raven across multiple Alaska landscapes.

Amanda Compton’s chosen medium is radio storytelling. She will produce an hour-long radio show featuring the untold stories of unique individuals in the Alaska fishing industry. Amanda lives in Juneau.

Kristina Cranston, of Sitka, will be creating Northwest Coast masks inspired by Tlingit myths and legends, such as Salmon Boy and Fog Woman. Kristina describes her work as “strong and soft.”

Pedar Dalthorp, an Anchorage-based sculptor and art educator at University of Alaska Southeast, will be participating in the 26th International Ceramics Symposium in the Czech Republic. Pedar will also create an exhibition and presentation at UAS.

Dr. Jim DiGennaro is a luthier from Sitka who crafts guitars. After attending a seminar on guitar making, he will build six tenor guitars to give to children and young adults on South Baranof Island.

Jerrod Galanin will create new artwork and prepare for his first solo art exhibit at the Alaska Native Arts Gallery in Anchorage in 2015. Jerrod hails from Sitka.

Mike Gates is a Ketchikan photographer who will be upgrading his equipment. His photography tells stories of the buildings and people in Southeast Alaska.

Travis Gilmour, of Anchorage, will be completing a short documentary featuring intimate portraits of Alaska Native carvers and their work.

Rob Goldberg is a Haines-based artist who has been crafting stringed instruments since 1973. He will be enlarging his studio to create spaces for apprentices, so that he can pass on his knowledge to the next generation. This is Rob’s second Individual Artist Award.

Joan Hornig is a painter who now creates ceramic sculptures. She will use her award to buy a kiln and two years worth of clay, allowing for the freedom of a home-based studio. Joan lives in Fairbanks.

Joseph Losinski, a photographer from North Pole, will be producing a project titled “Torso(s).” His series of photographs of tree stumps and roots are informed by his tour of duty in Iraq. 

Laura Oden will be producing a video, “The Pied Piper Project,” a Creative Placemaking initiative in which musicians across town will lead Anchorage citizens to a mobile music event. The happening will be videotaped from an aerial view. Laura lives in Anchorage.

Jill Osier is a self-described “vigilant poet” based in Fairbanks, who will be completing her first full book of poems. Jill experiences life by translating it to poetry.

Rebecca Poulson will be producing a film titled “Sheldon Jackson,” about the now-closed Sheldon Jackson School and College. Rebecca resides in Sitka.

Don Rearden is a novelist and screenwriter who will be adapting his award-winning novel, The Raven’s Gift, for the screen. Don is based in Anchorage.

Riva Sazama, from Fairbanks, is a visual artist focusing on sculpture. With her award, she will purchase welding equipment to create pieces that will be exhibited in galleries in Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Michael Shaeffer is a spoken word artist from Fairbanks. He will be touring 12 high schools in Alaska, interpreting The 12 Labors of Hercules, incorporating elements of sound design and theatrical-dramatic performance.

Mary Virginia Stroud is a photographer who will use her award to purchase a new camera and computer, allowing her to grow as an artist and take on new challenges and opportunities. Mary is a resident of Barrow.

Caroline Van Hemert, from Anchorage, will complete a book-length non-fiction narrative detailing the landscape, wildlife and relationships she encountered during a 4,000-mile human-powered trek from Puget Sound to the Chukchi Sea.

Dr. Christiana Veraart is a composer who will complete three phases of “Polar Suite,” a set of musical compositions inspired by Alaska landscapes. Christiana calls Anchorage home.

About the Individual Artist Awards

In December 2003, the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors launched a multi-year initiative to make a significant investment into the arts and cultural resources of the state. Designed with the help from artists and arts organizations from around the state, the initiative prioritized support to practicing artists themselves as a key strategy to ensure Alaska enjoys a vibrant art and culture community.

This is the eleventh year of the Individual Artist Awards program and, as of today, the program has awarded 338 grants, totaling more than $2.7 million, directly to Alaska artists. The purpose of the awards is to allow artists to seek a variety of creative opportunities, including providing them with the time necessary to focus on creative work.

About the Foundation

Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, “E.A.” Rasmuson. The Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.


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