Native artists enjoying new opportunities

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Not long ago, the Alaska Native Arts Foundation found a home at the corner of E Street and Sixth Avenue.

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Through this storefront, the nonprofit foundation can show more contemporary Native art and expose art to more people.

"It's a great space, and we're going to be open to both traditional and contemporary media," said Sonya Kelliher-Combs, an artist and board member for the foundation.

It turns out that Kelliher-Combs has a lot to be excited about this year.

During the Native Arts Summit at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in October, she hopes to see people in the arts community expose, help identify and solve problems faced by Native artists, she said.

Old materials can also generate excitement. On Kodiak Island, many artists see a swell of reinvigorated traditions and art.

"Until recently there were few Alutiiq carvers, weavers, painters, sculptures, sewers and beaders, and even fewer trained through the traditional method of apprenticeship," wrote Sven Haakanson, artist and director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak.

With funding from the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, the Alutiiq Museum hosted a workshop to reawaken spruce root basket weaving last spring, he said, and the museum plans to continue encouraging the exploration of traditional art.

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