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Alaska Native PLACE in the Pandemic

Grantee: Alaska Native Heritage Center
Story from Melissa Shaginoff, TCF Recipient and Project Coordinator

Over the past year, the grassroots collective Alaska Native PLACE (Providing Living Artists Creative Environments) undertook the planning of seven intergenerational art workshops with mentor Alaska Native artists and Alaska Native participants from all over the state and country. During the planning stages of this project, the COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent mandated shut-down procedures were put in place. Our response was to adjust our in-person workshop model to offer virtual Zoom workshops.

To best serve the Alaska Native PLACE collective, organizers selected seven Alaska Native artists to teach virtual workshops. While the pandemic stopped us from meeting in-person, it opened the door for our collective to reach out to artists beyond the Anchorage region. In addition to the intentions to grow the Alaska Native artist community throughout Alaska, our collective understood that the upcoming year would be particularly challenging for artists. With the loss of in-person markets, the cancelling of art orders and workshops, artists would be faced with a year of no in-person gatherings of our group. With this loss of multiple supports, our collective was determined to spread our funding first and foremost to artists. Each Alaska Native artist received a stipend and logistical support from the appointed collective Art Director. The Art Director would reach out and schedule with artists, advertise the workshops, email each participant, manage the calendar, schedule the workshop, shop for materials, create individual material kits, and mail and/or deliver kits to participants in Anchorage and the valley.

These are the following workshops that were hosted:

• Devil’s Club Beads with Kari Shaginoff; June 22, 2020
• Formline Snowflakes with Benjamin Schleifman; December 22, 2020
• Dene Rifle Case with Charlie Pardue; January 8 – 10, 2021
• Rabbit Skin Mittens with June Pardue; February 12 – 13, 2021
• Drawing and Ahtna Language with Dimi Macheras; February 25, 2021
• Atikłuk Sewing with Bobby Itta; April 10 – 11, 2021
• Drawing and Storytelling with Holly Mitiquq Nordlum; April 30, 2021

While of course there were limitations with the pandemic, PLACE reached Alaska Native participants aging from 12 to 79 years old. We mailed workshop kits all over Alaska as well as the lower 48 and over 70% of the funds received was paid directly to the Alaska Native artists.