Arts and Entertainment

You could design Alaska’s next license plate

The "Alaska Artistic License" plate contest opened Monday. Alaska residents can submit their designs for the state's next license plate.

"We wanted to focus on the idea of art in daily life and bring in the creativity that we know is in all corners of the state," Andrea Noble-Pelant, Visual and Literary Arts Program director with the Alaska State Council on the Arts, said about the contest.

The contest's website encourages any "kindergartener with an eye for color" or "professional artist looking for opportunities in an unusual medium" to apply.

Eight judges who are being touted as "a top-secret, celebrity panel of Alaskan(s)" will choose the finalists, and a statewide vote will pick the winning design.

The winning designer will be awarded $1,000, and finalists will each receive $250.

"The winner has the potential to be literally the most visible artist in Alaska because of the number of license plates out there," said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a Sitka Democrat who came up with the idea.

Kreiss-Tomkins hopes the design competition "will energize and unite all Alaskans" and also provide a funding source to the Alaska State Council on the Arts.


The "Artistic License" plates will cost $50. After the Division of Motor Vehicles recoups its administrative costs, the rest of the money will go to the council, Kreiss-Tomkins said.

A set of two license plates costs the DMV $17.18 to produce, said director Marla Thompson, along with a one-time $250 production fee.

That leaves almost $33 for each vehicle for the Council on the Arts.

Alaskans can print off license plate templates, create their design, and scan them for their submission to the Arts Council. A template is also provided for designs created through Photoshop.

Kreiss-Tomkins and retired Alaska Sen. Bill Stoltze introduced the design competition bill that was voted into law in 2016. Kreiss-Tomkins compared it to Alaska Airlines' airplane design competition, which has been held twice in Alaska.

Every four years a new contest will be held and the old design retired.

The winning design will be included among the many Alaska license plate designs available through the DMV. Among them: the standard yellow or bear plate, or a special mountain or caribou design. There are plates for veterans, Freemasons, university students, and "Choose Life" and "Pro Family Pro Choice" plates.

In May 2015, the hugely popular bear license plate was introduced that went on to win first place in a national plate award.

A total of 121,607 bear license plates have been issued, Thompson said.

The bear plate features an illustration by New Jersey wildlife artist Douglas Allen. The bear plate was originally issued in 1976 in conjunction with the American Bicentennial, but in 2015, Allen was surprised to find out his illustration had been used as the design; a Palmer resident spotted the connection and called on the DMV to honor Allen.

By June 2016, about 75 percent of general-issue plates and 40 percent of personalized plates were the bear design.

The plate design contest is accepting online submissions only through the Alaska Artistic License Call For Entry at

The contest closes at 9:59 p.m. Monday, April 24.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.