Six local artists honored with Individual Artist Awards

Local Rasmuson Award recipients, shown in Anchorage after the awards were announced, are, from left to right: Clarissa Rizal, Christy NaMee Eriksen, Ricky Tagaban, Christofer Taylor and Constance Baltuck. Not pictured is Merry Ellefson.

Six artists from Juneau are among the recipients of the Rasmuson Foundation’s 2013 Individual Artist Awards, announced Wednesday in Anchorage. The Juneau artists are Christy NaMee Eriksen, Christofer Taylor, Ricky Tagaban, Constance Baltuck, Merry Ellefson and Clarissa Rizal.


A total of 36 artists, chosen from a pool of 366 applicants, received awards from Rasmuson, in the foundation’s 10th annual round of Individual Artist Awards. One Distinguished Artist Award ($40,000) was given, as well as 25 Project Grants ($7,500) and 10 Fellowships ($18,000). All of the Juneau artists received project awards with the exception of Rizal, who received a fellowship.

The 2013 Distinguished Artist Award went to Sitka’s Teri Rofkar, a basket and textile weaver. This award recognizes an artist with “recognized stature and a history of creative excellence.” Rofkar is also the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Alaska Native Art and a Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership. In 2009, she was named a National Heritage Fellow “Living Treasure” and in 2006 was named a United States Artist Fellow. Her weavings include Ravenstail robes and spruce root basketry, among other works.

Rasmuson Foundation president Diane Kaplan cited Rofkar’s contributions to the continuation of Tlingit weaving across the country through demonstrations and teaching as part of the reason for her award.

Previous recipients of this award include 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).

The six Juneau artists honored Wednesday span various media: two are painters, two are weavers, one is a spoken word artist, and one is a playwright. All are highly active members of the arts community in Juneau.

Fellowship recipient Clarissa Rizal is a highly regarded local weaver who apprenticed under Jennie Thlunaut. Also a painter, a writer and an active weaving instructor, Rizal will use her award to finish some weaving projects and prepare for her first solo exhibit while continuing her teaching.

Painter Constance Baltuck, who often focuses on landscapes, has shown her work frequently in Juneau, most recently at the Franklin Street Gallery in the Baranof Hotel. She plans to use her project award to explore new works and prepare for a solo exhibit at the Juneau Douglas City Museum in the fall of 2014.

Christofer Taylor, who works at the canvas Community Art Gallery and Studio, is also a painter, one who often focuses on the human figure. Taylor will use his award to explore more abstract paintings, purchase supplies, and hire live models.

Ricky Tagaban, who recently returned to Juneau from Anchorage, works in many media including metal, paint and textiles. His award will allow him to buy a loom and weaving supplies so that he can create a Chilkat robe.

Christy NaMee Eriksen is a spoken word artist who co-created the highly successful Woosh Kinaadeiyí poetry slam in Juneau, among many other activities. Earlier this year, Eriksen was recognized with a Individual Artist Award in Juneau as part of the Mayor’s Awards for the Arts. Her Rasmuson award will be used to help produce a solo CD of her work and the work of other spoken word artists and musicians.

Playwright Merry Ellefson has a long history with Perseverance Theatre, both as a playwright and as a staff member; her plays include “Voyage” and “Bear Tales from The Great Land.” With her award, Merry will further develop a script for a play that explores the issues surrounding Juneau’s high rate of homelessness.

In addition to the six Juneau artists and Rofkar of Sitka, the winners were named in Anchorage, Chugiak, Fairbanks, Healy, Homer, Soldotna, North Pole, Ward Cove, Talkeetna, Ketchikan and Nome.

Anchorage artists are Lucian Childs, Joan Wilson, Deborah Schildt, Nathan Shafer, Anna Lynch, Karl Pasch, Linda Infante, Holly Nordlum, Charles Renfro, Becky Kendall, Maria Shell, Sharon Kay, Arlitia Jones and Joan Kane.

Three Fairbanks artists were named -- Etsuko Pederson, Sara Tabbert and Annie Duffy -- as well as four from Homer -- George Overpeck, John Whittier, Anna Iredale and Erin Hollowell.

Artists from elsewhere in the state are Alice Sullivan, of Chugiak; Christine Byl, of Healy; Keeley Boyle, of Soldotna; Kathie Cook, of North Pole; Vaughn Eide, of Ward Cove; Leighan Falley, of Talkeetna; Norman Jackson, of Ketchikan; and Kendra Nichols-Takak, of Nome.

Project Grants and Fellowships, launched in 2003, are designed to allow artists the flexibility and time to concentrate on their work, develop their art more fully, and pursue creative opportunities they might not otherwise have the means to pursue. Project awards are designed to support artists at any stage of their career, and are usually given to facilitate a specific short term project, whereas fellowships are designed for mid-career or mature artists, and are given to allow more general creative work.

Rasmuson Foundation has awarded 303 grants over the past ten years, totaling more than $2.3 million. The foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, “E.A.” Rasmuson.

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