Muñoz receives $25,000 art award

Artist among five in Juneau honored by Rasmuson Foundation

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2007

Last summer, Juneau artist Rie Muñoz spent a "pile of money" to house-sit and sketch in Dutch Harbor and Unalaska. The next time she decides to take one of her long journeys for ideas, the acclaimed watercolorist won't have to worry about the cost of her ticket.

Muñoz, 83, was awarded the Rasmuson Foundation's $25,000 2007 Distinguished Artist last week during a ceremony in the Gastineau Room on the ninth floor of the Baranof Hotel.

"I couldn't believe it," Muñoz said. "When they called me up, I was taking a nap and I thought somebody was trying to sell me something. When she said, 'You won an award,' then I knew she was trying to sell me something.

"I'm just going to keep doing what I always do, and that is go to villages and other places and do a lot of sketches, and then do paintings when I come back," she said.

Five other Juneau artists hit the jackpot Wednesday.

Juneau artist Janice Criswell received a $12,000 Fellowship Award for her Tlingit and Haida folk and traditional work.

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"(The grants) allow you to do a variety of things," Criswell said. "It's really helpful to meet the needs of the artists."

Four Juneau artists won Individual Artist Project Awards: Diane Baxter, new genre (clay and sound), Juneau, $4,080; Stefan Hakenberg, music composition, Juneau, $5,000; John Leo, performance art, Juneau, $5,000; and David Walker, crafts (woodworking), Juneau, $5,000.

"It's the motherlode," Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan said. "Juneau is known as an arts community. There's so many organizations that work here, and a lot of individual artists that do. There's a lot of talent here."

The Rasmuson awards were part of the foundation's 10-year, $20 million Arts and Culture Initiative. So far, the Foundation has handed out $684,000 for four Distinguished Artist Awards; 25 Fellowship Awards; and 71 Project Awards. Judges from outside the state jury the selection process.

The project awards are intended to support a particular project that the artist has identified. The fellowships are meant to encourage creative work and can be used any way the artist sees fit.

"(Rie) can buy herself a new car if that's what she wants to do with it," Kaplan said. "It really recognizes her excellence and importance in Alaska life, and it's really just an award to recognize how distinguished she is. But I think she's going to use it to pursue her art."

Muñoz has traveled to villages all over the state since arriving in Alaska in the 1950s.

"I usually never plan the trips in advance," she said. "Somebody writes me or calls me and says, 'You just have to come up here and paint this particular scene.' It really surprises the heck out of them when I come."

Muñoz's work is carried in more than 200 galleries across the country, including her own space in Jordan Creek in the Mendenhall Valley. She won the Alaska State Council on the Arts' 2004 Governor's Award for Individual Artist, and last year her work was featured in a retrospective at the Alaska State Museum.

Muñoz's latest book, "King Island Journal," is due out this November. It includes 130 photographs plus a journal Muñoz kept with her former husband, Juan, when they visited the community in 1951.

Her next trip will be considerably cheaper than the Aleutians. She plans to take the state ferry to her cabin in Tenakee Springs.

The next Project Award application deadline is Sept. 1, 2007. For more information, visit or call Victoria Lord at (907) 297-2827 or (877) 366-2700.

• Other $12,000 Fellowship Award winners: Margaret Abraham, folk and traditional (Yup'ik), Anchorage; Norman Jackson, folk and traditional (Tlingit), Ketchikan; Nancy Lord, literary arts and scriptworks (creative non-fiction), Homer; John Morgan, literary arts and scriptworks (poetry), Fairbanks; and Fran Reed, crafts (fish skin works), Anchorage.

• Other Individual Project Award winners: Kevin Co, media arts (videography), Homer, $5,000; Sandra Gillespie, visual arts (painter), Ester, $5,000; Stephen Gray, visual arts (photography), Anchorage, $5,000; Robert Hook, crafts (blacksmith), North Pole, $4,830; Steven Kahn, literary arts and scriptworks (creative non-fiction), Port Alsworth, $5,000; Ryan Olson, visual arts (photographer), Anchorage, $5,000; Nicole Stellon O'Donnell, literary arts and scriptworks (poetry), Fairbanks, $5,000; Tim Thomas, visual arts (photography), Anchorage, $5,000.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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