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Honoring artistic Alaskans

Posted: December 1, 2013 - 1:04am

Every year since 1969, the Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA) has collaborated with the governor to seek out Alaskans who have contributed significantly to artistic and cultural life on the Last Frontier, and to ensure these Alaskans are recognized and honored. This process of recognition and public praise constitutes the Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities. This year, four Governor’s Awards will be presented to acknowledge each of the following: an individual Alaskan artist, an arts advocate, a business that supports the arts, and a person whose work has helped preserve and nurture Alaska Native arts and language (the Margaret Nick Cooke Award).

ASCA is Alaska’s state arts agency, a statutorily-created part of state government with an explicit mission to foster the development and appreciation of arts for all Alaskans through partnerships, grants, and collaboration. I have the privilege of serving as ASCA chairman alongside ten other ASCA council members, all of whom are deeply committed to ensuring art is a strong and diversely-woven fiber in the fabric of Alaskan life.

When the Alaska Legislature created ASCA in 1966, it set out to “ensure that the role for the arts in the life of our communities will continue to grow and will play an ever more significant part in the welfare and educational experience of our citizens.” That endeavor is what ASCA still pursues to this day.

By virtue of its statutory existence, ASCA makes Alaska eligible for matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a state and federal partnership, which has worked well across the land. ASCA is able to offer a vibrant array of services: grants to arts organizations and individual artists; wide-ranging arts education programs; a contemporary arts bank; public art management and curation; and the Poetry Out Loud high school recitation competition, among others. The Governor’s Awards are a festive opportunity that lauds Alaskans who devote their daily lives to making life wonderful in the Great Land.

For many years, the Alaska Humanities Forum has been ASCA’s partner in selecting and bestowing the Governor’s Awards. The forum’s mission is to use humanities to tell the stories and impact the lives of all Alaskans. For the past several years, three discrete Alaskans have been honored for their work in the humanities in fields such as writing, history, linguistics and philosophy.

For more than a decade, the Governor’s Awards have been held in the fall in either Anchorage or Fairbanks in conjunction with the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Annual Convention. While this has been convenient for those in attendance at AFN, it has presented logistical challenges to the two sponsoring organizations and their hard-working staffs. ASCA and the Humanities Forum decided earlier this year to work with the Governor’s Office to relocate and reconfigure the Governor’s Awards, thus the next Governor’s Awards will take place when the Alaska Legislature convenes in Juneau. This is a great opportunity for all Alaskans to focus on the importance of the arts and humanities, just as the important work of the legislative session is getting underway.

The 2014 Governor’s Awards are set for Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC), with doors to open at 6 p.m. and the ceremony to begin at 7 pm. Tickets will be on sale for the awards ceremony, which will include performances by Alaskan artists in a variety of disciplines interspersed throughout the evening. There will be a separate legislative reception for Governor’s Awards recipients prior to the awards ceremony, for which a limited number of tickets will also be available for purchase.

Nominations for the Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities were solicited throughout the autumn and are now under consideration by the respective sponsoring organizations prior to recommendations being forwarded to the Governor’s Office. Award recipients will be announced early in the New Year, so Alaskans can plan to be in Juneau for the presentations. Public media coverage and broadcasting of the Governor’s Awards will allow Alaskans from all corners of the Last Frontier to observe and enjoy the process even if they’re unable to come join us in the Capital City. To learn the names of the many outstanding Alaskans who have been honored over the years, read the impressive four-page roster at ASCA’s website: eed.state.ak.us/aksca/.

Juneau is among the most artistically blessed places in Alaska, and the prefect venue for the 2014 Governor’s Awards to add to this list of Alaskan arts and humanities heroes.

• Brown serves as Chairman of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and is an attorney who lives in Juneau.

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