Nine Alaskans will be honored at the Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities ceremony tonight at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, a group whose contributions in the arts range from music education to politics to fine art.
Organized by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Arts and Culture Foundation, in cooperation with the Governor’s Office, the awards are designed to honor significant achievements by Alaskan artists, writers, historians, scholars and others.
This year’s awards ceremony will include artist performances and a reception for community members, marking a change from past years, when the ceremony has been held at a dinner in Anchorage, in conjunction with the Alaska Federation of Natives convention.
The public reception honoring the recipients begins at 6 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, followed by the awards ceremony itself at 7 p.m.
Performing at the ceremony will be Pamyua, Leslie Kimiko Ward, Nora and Richard Dauenhauer, Ishmael Hope and Allison Warden, with dance by Lda Kat Naax Sati Yatx’l, and music by the Juneau Alaska Music Matters violinists.
Here’s a closer look at the nine Alaskans being honored.
• Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and Humanities: Ronald Senungetuk, of Homer
Inupiaq artist and educator Ronald Senungetuk, of Homer, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts and Humanities. Born in Wales, Alaska, Senungetuk works primarily in wood and silver, and holds degrees in both fields. A Fulbright scholar, he studied sculpture and metalworking in Norway before returning to Alaska to teach art at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he founded and directed the Native Arts Center. Now living in Homer, he retired from teaching in 1988. Senungetuk, whose work was featured at the Alaska State Museum in 1999, was honored with Rasmuson Foundation’s Distinguished Artist Award in 2008. He continues to actively produce work in metal and wood and to share his knowledge of the arts through presentations and talks around the state.
• Arts Advocacy Award: Cam Bohman of Anchorage
Cam Bohman, music coordinator for the Alaska School Activities Association, will be honored for her role as a longtime advocate for young musicians. Her support for Alaska’s youth includes the coordination of two major statewide music festivals -- the All-State Honor Music Festival and the State Solo & Ensemble Music Festival -- which occur every fall and spring, respectively. She is also the state’s liason to the American Choral Directors Association, the American String Teachers Association and the American Band Directors Association. in the past she has taught music students through the Anchorage School District and the University of Alaska and continues to lead private vocal lessons in Anchorage.
• Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts and Languages: Martha Galila of Goodnews Bay
The Margaret Nick Cooke Award, bestowed annually to recognize outstanding work in supporting traditional Alaska Native language and culture, will be given to artist and educator Martha Galila, a Yup’ik elder in Goodnews Bay. According to the Bristol Bay Times, Galila is a “spunky” artist who specializes in Native crafts such as skin sewing and basket weaving. Galila, born in Goodnews Bay in 1939, has spent decades sharing her knowledge of traditional Native values with younger generations through her art, storytelling and presence in local schools. A chairman on the Board of Directors at the Rocky Mountain School in Goodnews Bay, and a former school board president -- as well as a mother to six children -- she recently led a series of art workshops at the Lower Kuskokwim Dance Festival.
• Individual Artist Award: Eowyn Ivey of Palmer
Many local readers are likely to be familiar with the work of Eowyn Ivey -- her first novel, “The Snow Child,” has been widely acclaimed and eventually landed Ivey a spot on the short list of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize nominees for fiction, as well as earning her the 2013 Indies Choice Award for debut fiction and the 2013 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award. Ivey, who last came through Juneau in May to take part in Hearthside Books annual Authors at Sea Cruise, told the Anchorage Daily News that she was inspired to write the “The Snow Child” while working for Fireside Books in Palmer, after coming across a copy of a children’s Russian fairytale, “Snegurochka.”
• Business Leadership Award: Darl Schaaff of Anchorage
Darl Schaaff, former director of development for the Anchorage Arts Council, has been involved in the creation and production of arts events for more than 30 years. In his current role as founding partner and CEO of Art Services North, he helps design and coordinate events in multiple disciplines -- from theater events to exhibits to charity functions. He also serves as an advisor for many Alaskan community groups and businesses, fostering connections between artists and the organizations that help to support them.
• Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award: Aaron Leggett of Anchorage
Aaron Leggett, a lifelong Anchorage resident and a Dena’ina Athabascan, is the Special Exhibits Curator at the Anchorage Museum. He recently co-curated the first major exhibition ever presented about the Dena’ina Athabascan people, “Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living,” The exhibit includes film, life-size re-creations, images, learning stations, audio and more than 160 artifacts on loan from museums across Europe and North America, and was the result of more than seven years of work. Leggett also played an important role in setting up the “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska” exhibit at the museum, that features objects from the Smithsonian’s collections, selected and interpreted with help from Alaska Native advisers. He is an advisor to the Alaska Office of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, established in 1988 as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He formerly worked as the Dena’ina cultural historian for the Alaska Native Heritage Center and was the assistant historian for Cook Inlet Region Inc.
• Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award: William “Willie” Iggiagruk Hensley of Anchorage
William Iggiagruk Hensley, A Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will be honored for Distinguished Service to the Humanities. Inupiat elder Hensley was a prominent advocate for Native land rights beginning in the late 1960s -- a story he relates first-hand in his autobiographical book, “Fifty Miles from Tomorrow.” The book provides personal background to Hensley’s political career, setting his powerful accomplishments against personal stories about growing up on Kotzebue Sound, living a subsistence lifestyle. In addition to fighting for Native land issues, Hensley helped establish a unified voice to represent Native interests through the creation of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966, and has served as its executive director, president and co-chairman. He also helped found the Northwest Alaska Native Association, and served as that group’s director for 20 years. His professional roles also have included 10 years in the Alaska Legislature, chairman of the Land Claims Task Force under former Gov. Wally Hickel, commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development under former Gov. Tony Knowles, and manager of Federal Government Relations for Alyeska Pipeline Services Co.
• Distinguished Service tot he Humanities Award: Patricia Ann Relay of Valdez
Through her work as the Executive Director of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive, Patricia Ann Relay promotes the idea that museums are vital community learning centers and gathering places. Formerly the development director at the Watcom Museum and an administrator at the Washington Art Consortium, Relay moved to Valdez from Bellingham in 2010. She holds a master of arts in arts administration from Goucher College and has 15 years of experience in her field.
• Eva Saulitis of Homer
Essayist and poet Eva Saulitis’ works often highlight her dual role as an author and a marine biologist. Her most recent book is “Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas,” in which she shares her inspiring -- and devastating -- experiences in studying an orca family in the Prince William Sound. Her first book, “Leaving Resurrection: Chronicles of a Whale Scientist,” was a finalist for the Tupelo Press Non-Fiction Prize and the ForeWord Book Award. Her poetry has been published in many journals, including Cirque, the Alaska Quarterly Review and Ice Floe, and her work has also appeared on NPR’s Living on Earth.
For more information on the awardees and the awards reception in Juneau, visit www.akhf.org or education.alaska.gov/aksca.