Foundation awards $100k to Indigenous artists and partnering organizations

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation recently announced the inaugural awardees for a grant aimed at Indigenous arts and culture.

Among the numerous Alaska Natives named were two Juneau residents, renowned Tlingit weaver Lily Hope and Yup’ik musician Stephen Qacung Blanchett.

The $100,000 grant will be split evenly between the artist and their partnering organization. Hope said she’s grateful for being selected, but that success comes with its own weight.

“Like, there is a ton of work ahead of me. Grateful, and oh my goodness, it’s going to be a lot of work,” Hope said in an interview. “I really love working with NACF. Their support team is great for artists. This is my second NACF connection.”

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Hope previously worked with the foundation for a mentor-apprentice fellowship in 2017. Now, she’ll partner with Goldbelt Heritage Foundation for her project “Protecting the Material Sovereignty of Our Indigenous Homelands.” Hope will work with the foundation and their resources to raise awareness of issues such as mountain goat hunts for their hair and protection and preservation of cedar stands.

“I’m glad that I get to use some of my performance art skills,” Hope said. “It won’t be boring. We’re looking forward to creating some pretty fun, compelling pieces.”

The second part of Hope’s plan is to mentor a pair of emerging weavers in the traditional weaving styles, who’ll be revealed in the future, Hope said.

“The goal is to have an organization who supports the artist bringing about these issues. I’m really excited to partner with Goldbelt Heritage,” Hope said. “There’s a narrative to it. The goal was to hit on four or five different topics.”

Blanchett’s project, called “Cuumillat’stun” or “Like our Ancestors”, will focus on communities in Kodiak, as he seeks to expand a decade-long effort of his to breathe life into traditional songs and dances and turn it into a self-sustaining reaction. Blanchett will be working with the Old Harbor Alliance to disseminate the knowledge of how to create new songs and dances to the residents of the island.

“This grant is expanding what we’ve been doing in Old Harbor, taking it to the seven communities on Kodiak Island,” Blanchett said. “I’ll be working with them to teach them and mentor them on the dance traditions and how to create songs and dances.”

Blanchett was previously awarded a fellowship with NACF in 2015 for his music, and said he’s grateful to work with the foundation again to help bring the traditional songs and dances to life.

“This kind of support is really amazing,” Blanchett said. “I’m really honored to be part of this first cohort.”

At the end of the project, Blanchett said, they hope to have as many new performances to share as they give the residents of Kodiak the knowledge they need to create their own new songs and dances.

“In the end, after creating all these songs, these 70 songs and dances, it will culminate in the second dance festival on the island,” Blanchett said. “That will be in April of 2023.”

The first dance festival in living memory was in 2017, Blanchett said.

“This has been a dream of ours with that community,” Blanchett said. “We’ve been talking about this for so long.”

For the complete list of winners, check out https://www.nativeartsandcultures.org/.

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