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Rasmuson Foundation announces 2017 Individual Artist Award winners

Sculptor and weaver Gertrude Svarny of Unalaska won The 2017 Distinguished Artist Award. (Photo courtesy Rasmuson Foundation)

Sculptor and weaver Gertrude Svarny of Unalaska won The 2017 Distinguished Artist Award, which comes with $40,000, Rasmuson Foundation announced.

The Rasmuson Foundation also awarded nine fellowships ($18,000 each) and 25 project awards ($7,500 each) to 34 artists, including Anchorage poet Olena Kalytiak Davis, Anchorage musician Hannah Yoter, Chevak carver Earl F. Atchak, and Ketchikan visual artist Carmel Anderson, who recently had a show addressing domestic abuse titled "Unheard Voices, Unheard Wisdom" at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage.

Svarny, 87, started as a painter, and is best known for her intricate ivory and soapstone sculptures. She's also a bentwood artist and weaver.

She is credited with helping to keep Unangan art and culture alive, and her work is featured in numerous permanent collections.

Svarny's awards and positions include the 2008 Governor's Award for Native Arts, director of the Institute of Alaska Native Arts, member of the Board of Regents of the Institute of American Indian Arts and culture bearer for Camp Qungaayux, Unalaska's annual culture camp, where she taught classes in Unangan weaving and design.

2017 fellows

Carver Earl F. Atchak of Chevak will create masks for a new exhibit and identify and train an apprentice to carry on his ancestors' mask-making tradition.

Dancer and choreographer Breezy Berryman of Homer will expand her original dance, "Nature's Walk," and turn it into a film using Alaska's landscape as inspiration.

Bead and fabric artist Beth Blankenship of Anchorage will create a dozen pieces telling a story of human connection to the natural world and our impact on Alaska's animals and those who rely on them.

Poet Olena Kalytiak Davis of Anchorage will develop a novella straddling the border of poetry and prose.

Writer Erin Coughlin Hollowell of Homer will explore issues of patriarchy, culture and family history in her third poetry collection, "Flung Stone, Dark Wing."

Writer Tom Kizzia of Homer will work on two memoirs and complete an essay about history, time and loss in McCarthy.

Multimedia artist Enzina Marrari of Anchorage will explore concepts of protection, vulnerability and personal truths through a series of performances.

Quilter Maria Shell of Anchorage will explore nonlinear shapes in a 12-quilt series.

Basket weaver Agnes Thompson of Anchorage will travel to her home village of Atka in the Aleutians to experiment with the local process of gathering and curing grass for Unangan basket weaving.

2017 Project Awards

Visual artist Carmel Anderson of Ketchikan will provide a narrative of foster children's experiences, loyalty to family and aging out of the system, through an art installation.

Carver Everett Athorp of Klawock will design and carve a traditional Haida canoe.

Singer-songwriter Marian Call of Juneau will learn how to digitally master music from her computer and create an EP of original songs using samples, loops and other digital effects.

Sculptor Alanna DeRocchi of Anchorage will study the landscape and animals of Point Hope for her 2018 solo exhibition at The Anchorage Museum.

Songwriter Christy Tengs Fowler of Haines will hire musicians and vocalists to record 25 original songs for documentary of her life scheduled to premiere at the Chilkat Center for the Performing Arts in 2018.

Writer Ellen Frankenstein of Sitka will attend a writing workshop and writer's conference to explore new ways of shaping stories.

Writer Patt Garrett of McCarthy will complete a project on Kate Kennedy, a controversial McCarthy businesswoman who lived during the early 20th century copper bonanza.

Carver, painter and bead worker Erin Gingrich of Anchorage will purchase tools.

Weaver Lily Hope of Juneau will travel to British Columbia to study of Chilkat weaving.

Drum circle facilitator Gail Jackson of Anchorage will purchase two gongs, train with a master and attend a course prior to her 2018 performance "Sound Immersion."

Dancer and choreographer Wendy Langton of Fairbanks will shadow two dance companies to study contemporary choreography.

Dancer Mary Loewen of Kodiak will enroll in hip-hop dance workshops to form a hip-hop dance collective and teach students.

Weaver Mangyepsa Gyipaayg (Kandi McGilton) of Metlakatla will continue her apprenticeship with a master weaver in the traditional Annette Island style of Tsimshian basketry.

Textile artist Amy Meissner of Anchorage will complete work on her solo exhibit, "Inheritance: makers. memory. myth.," scheduled to display at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska State Museum in 2018.

Songwriter and producer Evan Phillips of Anchorage will write and record new songs.

Writer Jessica Meadowlark Plachta of Haines will travel to Eastern Washington to interview people for her memoir of growing up with "an idealistic group of counter-culture nature freaks" who planted trees for the U.S. Forest Service.

Wood sculptor Sandy Stolle of Seward will design and build an adjustable easel.

Visual artist Karen Stomberg of Fairbanks will draw wild flowering plant species at three different historical periods.

Animator Vanessa "Vee" Sweet of Shishmaref will complete "Wild Woman," a short, hand-drawn film.

Writer Lily H. Tuzroyluke of Anchorage will complete her first historical novel, "The Sanca," about an Inupiaq family that survives the smallpox epidemic.

Writer Miranda Weiss of Homer will begin work on a book about snow.

Designer and craftswoman Merna Wharton of Fairbanks will purchase animal pelts and other supplies for two Yup'ik parkas and create a website documenting and teaching the process.

Photographer Nathaniel Wilder of Anchorage will attend a workshop in visual storytelling and documentary photography  for his documentation of the spring bowhead whale hunt in Point Hope.

Singer, songwriter and musician Hannah Yoter of Anchorage will compose original Americana songs for a full-length album.

Poet Itzel Yarger-Zagal of Anchorage will complete a book of bilingual poems based on her experiences emigrating from Mexico and the stories of other migrants.