Rasmuson Foundation Announces 2019 Individual Artist Award Recipients

Rasmuson Foundation has named 35 artists in 18 Alaska communities as Individual Artist Award recipients for 2019. Ten individuals will receive $18,000 Fellowships and 25 artists will receive Project Awards of $7,500. Recipients were selected from a pool of 317 applicants by a panel of Lower 48 artists and creative community leaders.

Earlier in the week, the Foundation announced its 2019 Distinguished Artist, Richard Nelson of Sitka. He is being honored with a $40,000 award for a lifetime of creative excellence.

Common themes addressed in the work of this year’s awardees include the impacts of climate change on Alaska and exploring traditional knowledge, cultural heritage and gender identity.

Fellowships are awarded to mid-career and mature artists ready for an intensive, yearlong project. Sara Tabbert of Fairbanks makes woodblock prints and panels revealing overlooked environments. She will develop new sculptural skills for her upcoming exhibit, “Lowland,” which will explore the strange and beautiful landscapes of Interior Alaska. The artist writes, “wild places I visit may be ecologically significant but their lack of drama leaves them unprotected and vulnerable. I believe that attention can translate to stewardship, and I want my work to inspire care for the lesser landscapes.”

Project Awards support artists at all career stages for specific, short-term works. John S. Hagen of Haines will photograph salmon season in the village of Ugashik on the Alaska Peninsula, where his ancestors lived until the 1918 flu epidemic. “I have searched for images of Unangan people living in the Bristol Bay region,” he writes. “My searches rarely turn up recent images or stories. It’s as if they no longer exist. But we do exist. Since I cannot find those images, I need to make them — not just for myself, but also for my ancestors and for future generations.”

The awards and fellowships provide critical financial support for working artists in all disciplines and genres, in styles ranging from traditional to experimental. Fellow Neva Mathias is best-known for her dolls made of sealskin, leather, grass and other natural materials. She will prepare hides, travel to Anchorage for supplies, and seek opportunities to teach her craft to younger artists. “The material products for my dolls are so limited out here in rural Alaska,” she writes. “Getting to Anchorage to shop for my artistic needs is so rare because it is so expensive to travel from Chevak. To be able to shop only for my art supplies would be once in a lifetime adventure for me!”

This year marks the first time for a recipient from Big Lake. Project Awardee Rebecca Menzia is a composer who explores femininity through complex melodies, painful concepts and healing textures.

Learn more and see a short film about the artists at our 2019 Individual Artist Award web feature.

Artist project profiles accompany this release and also are available on the web feature. Explore the work of Richard Nelson on the Distinguished Artist web feature. Photos, videos and audio files are available upon request.

Rasmuson Foundation began providing grants to support individual working artists in Alaska in 2004. The program has made a total of 516 awards to individual artists: 366 Project Awards, 134 Fellowships and 16 Distinguished Artist awards totaling more than $4.7 million.

Beyond financial support, the Foundation promotes artists through social media, stories, films and our website. It also sponsors intensive workshops to help artists work profitably.

“After 16 years and more than 500 awards to artists, this is every bit as exciting as it was when we started the program,” said Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson Foundation president and CEO. “The list of Project Awards and Fellowships represents a dazzling preview of upcoming performances, shows, and new works by Alaska’s most talented established and emerging artists. We can’t wait to see the results.”

About the Foundation

Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, E.A. Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.

Museums Alaska is grateful for Rasmuson Foundation’s continued support of our Art Acquisition Fund and Collections Management Fund.