Arts and Entertainment

Rasmuson Foundation announces 2021 award winners

The Rasmuson Foundation has announced the complete list of artists who will receive grant funding in 2021.

Ten artists received fellowships worth $18,000, and another 25 artists received $7,500 each. Recipients were selected from a pool of nearly 300 applicants by a national panel of artists and people in the artistic field. The artists represent 21 Alaska communities and nine artistic disciplines.

In May, the foundation announced Tlingit author Ernestine Saankaláxt’ Hayes is Rasmuson’s 2021 Distinguished Artist, which comes with a $40,000 award.

Fellowships ($18,000)

Tricia Brown, an Anchorage author, will research and write her own creative nonfiction book about Irene Sherman, the “Queen of Fairbanks.” Brown first wrote about Sherman in 1988, but will interview newly discovered relatives and learn more about her life.

Anchorage writer and activist Laura Carpenter will write a queer young adult fantasy novel, “The Storm Inside Me,” following a girl’s journey to break a curse and save the people she loves.

Percussionist Gail Jackson will record nature sounds in Southcentral Alaska to use in live performances and compile the sounds together into a CD. Jackson will also lead a program to teach students about sound and vibration.

Fairbanks poet Jill Osier is creating her second poetry collection, with more than 48 poems about life in Alaska, the winter landscape and the feelings surrounding love and loss.


June Simeonoff Pardue, a Sutton artist, will study ethnographic fish skin and traditional sewing skills, harvest willows and turn fish skins into leather. Her goal is to sew a contemporary Alutiiq garment, a nod to her ancestors.

Anchorage beader Sienna Shields will create an immersive bead installation, using miles of wires and hundreds of thousands of beads. Shields plans to use to space for people to think about memory, prayer and connections.

Steven Stone Sr., a Yup’ik artist in Hooper Bay, will expand his shop, which mentors young people and teaches them how to create traditional harpoons and ulus.

X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell from Juneau will collaborate with other Indigenous screenwriters to write a screenplay in Tlingit about two brothers who made it back home after escaping from a Native American boarding school.

Artist Merna Wharton plans to travel to museums with traditional Yup’ik fur parkas and recreate designs that were not made for several generations.

Saxman carver Kenneth White will purchase equipment that will allow him to share stories with traditional methods including storytelling, drawing, carving and dancing.

Project Awards ($7,500)

Puppeteer Maïté Agopian will create puppets for an Alaska consortium exhibit, “In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories.”

Tlingit weaver Sydney Akagi will create a full-size ceremonial robe using traditional methods and document her work with writing, illustrations and pictures.

Chevak artist Polly Andrews will create an album of contemporary and traditional Alaska Native music.

Kendra Arciniega is creating a web series about the connections between the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities in Anchorage.

Anchorage artist Rejoy Armamento will paint a 300-square-foot mural, which will be part of the Mountain View Mural Walk.

[New mural brings retro colors and a nod to Hawaii to Mountain View]

Valdez stained-glass artist Bridget Brunner plans on building a studio to support her business, which will feature a display area and space for community classes.

Katie Ione Craney of Haines will create 2D visual representations of audio recordings, which will be part of a body of work surrounding human sight and hearing. Audio and written descriptions, including Braille, will be available.

Anchorage resident KC Crowley is planning on making books from fish skins and other Alaska-based materials.

Scott Joyce and MaKaela Dickerson make up the R&B Fairbanks duo Dumile; they will purchase recording equipment for a home studio and debut album.

Ketchikan artist Sharon Filyaw will purchase tools for helping shape stones in her art. Filyaw will also buy some camera equipment to document baskets and sculptures of collected pine needle and stone.


Homer filmmaker Silas Firth will produce a documentary about the sinking of SS Princess Sophia, which happened in 1918.

Raymond Gamradt from Palmer will design large charcoal pieces of subsistence activities in Alaska, including hunting, fishing and berry picking.

Ishmael Angaluuk Hope will create “Yéi Áyá Yaxh Shutaan: This is How It Ends,” a story about a Native man and his family’s experience with the world ending. The narrative will be in Tlingit and English.

Anchorage based musician Joshua Jeffries, known as Naessi, will make a full-length album with compositions and sounds of Alaska’s wilderness.

Sitka artist Merritt Johnson will create a body of work, featuring sculptures with weaving and objects she has gathered, as well as paintings and work on paper.

Iñupiaq sewer Maija Katak Lukin will create a traditional fur parka with the same materials, furs and tools her grandmother used. The process will be documented in film and photos as a tutorial.

Kendell Macomber will make a space for people to practice aerial arts. Macomber is originally from Fairbanks but lives in Anchorage and wants to focus on teaching new ways of movement.

Larisa Manewal of Sitka will create a body of work about the Pacific herring, which will including interviews, photography and other mediums.


Homer artist Bjørn Olson will buy video and audio equipment to record the sounds of nature and culture found in his travels.

Yup’ik artist “Quki” Golga Oscar will make a parka, mukluks and five headdresses while exploring decolonization and seeking one’s identity in Western systems.

Eagle River woodcrafter Tony Perelli will buy equipment to expand the production of eating utensils from local materials, resulting in an exhibit called “The Natural Setting.”

Yup’ik and Sámi Bethel artist Ralph Sara will make an audiobook, “The Anonymous Eskimo,” about his early life and relationship with alcohol.

Wasilla resident Christina Seine will buy a used cargo van and renovate it into a writing studio. She will use the van to research her historical fiction novel, “Bodies of Water,” and travel between communities surrounding Resurrection Bay, where her book takes place.

Melissa Shaginoff will create a series of workshops from an Indigenous perspective around moose and caribou hide work.

Botanical artist Karen Stomberg will observe a single birch tree in Fairbanks and its surroundings over a year’s time through drawings, monoprints and a soundscape for group exhibition and book, “In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories.”