Governor’s Awards: Improving Alaska through the arts

Courtesy Image | Alaska State Council on the Arts These five license plates were the options for voters in the 2017 statewide contest. The winning design, at bottom left, by Anita Laulianen, features the aurora.

Alaskans celebrate the artistic vitality of life in the Great Land throughout the year. The annual Governor’s Arts &Humanities Awards honor Alaskans who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields, and whose work improves Alaskans’ quality of life.


The Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA), the Alaska Arts &Culture Foundation, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and the Governor’s Office partner annually on the Governor’s Awards. This year’s honorees include Alvin Amason as Individual Artist, Delbert Cederburg of Allied Steel for Business Leadership in the Arts, Charlie Skultka with the Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts, and Robert Pond being honored with a posthumous Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

Alvin Amason was raised on Kodiak Island. He served for 17 years as Director of Alaska Native Arts at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After retiring there, he created an Alaska Native Arts curriculum at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He’s influenced hundreds of artists encouraging them to be boldly creative. Throughout his teaching career, Amason has excelled as an individual artist, creating fun and whimsical pieces in widely mixed media. His work is on display across Alaska, the nation and internationally. Amason’s unmistakable style was most recently unveiled with enormous, beautiful installations in the new Rasmuson Wing of the Anchorage Museum.

Delbert Cederburg has spent over half a century making Alaska a better place through his business Allied Steel. He came to Anchorage in 1963 and promptly joined the Anchorage Volunteer Fire Department. He used his skills at the Alaska Zoo to build habitat for many different resident animals. He helped make the Mountain View Lions Community Park a safe and fun environment for families and children, and supported the Anchorage Ski Club by maintaining infrastructure at Arctic Valley. Cederburg has helped a wide array of artists of all skill levels and backgrounds create and install sculptures all over the greater Anchorage area, leaving a legacy of public art that will endure long into the future. Delbert Cederburg exemplifies business leadership in the arts.

Charlie Skultka, Jr., of Sitka has demonstrated his artistic skills and helped celebrate, honor and preserve Alaska Native culture. He worked as a demonstrating artist at the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center (SEAICC) at the Sitka National Historic Park and earned fame for his artistry carving metal, ivory and wood. He currently works as traditional arts specialist for the Sitka Native Education Program, co-sponsored by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the Sitka School District. Charlie is known and respected for this work and his passion for Alaska Native art, which sees him partnering with teachers to incorporate Native Arts into learning activities for all students. Charlie has guided first-graders in creating their own personal drums for use in learning how to count, know the syllables in words, and to learn and perform Native songs and dances.

Robert Pond came to Anchorage with the Air Force in 1957, having performed with the Metropolitan Opera, in summer stock and off-Broadway. Pond soon joined Anchorage Community Theater (ACT) and quickly became an essential part of the theatre world in Alaska’s largest city. After going Outside in 1977 to get a graduate degree in theater, he returned to Anchorage and served for the next 42 years as artistic director of ACT. He founded a Young Performers Workshop to teach acting and technical work, and always challenged all theater people to learn and hone their skills. The face of theatre in Alaska was changed immeasurably by Pond, who passed away last year.

The Governor’s Award for the Arts &Humanities will be presented in a ceremony at the Juneau Arts &Culture Center on the Feb. 8, 2018, which will be broadcast on 360North.

In other exciting arts news, ASCA was pleased this week to announce the winner of the Alaskan Artistic License Plate project. The contest comes from legislation passed in 2016, which led to a multi-tiered competition beginning with 42 submissions to a panel of judges, who chose five finalists. Over 17,000 votes were cast, and the winner is a design by Anita Laulainen from Palmer, who studies graphic design at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her design is inspired by the aurora borealis. The Division of Motor Vehicles will now get to work having these Alaska ArtPlates manufactured, and they’ll be available for Alaskans to purchase in the first half of 2018. The proceeds will be reinvested into artistic and cultural programs by ASCA, in the continuing effort to diversify revenue and make programs sustainable and enduring.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this column gave the incorrect date of the upcoming Governor’s Awards. The ceremony will take place on Feb. 8, 2018, not Feb. 18, 2018.


• Benjamin Brown is a lifelong Alaskan and attorney who lives in Juneau. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.




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