ImagiNative Alaska ExperienceAnchorage, AK
The Alaska Native Heritage Center continues to move forward through the year and has just finished the first of several master artists residencies. The project brought together aspiring artists and nationally known Alaska Native artists for a workshop using a medium created by internationally known artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs. Ed Bourgeois, Director of Community Engagement at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, talks with ArtPlace about the triumphs and challenges implementing the many deliverables of the ArtPlace grant.
ARTPLACE: What has been the thorniest issue you’ve faced to date?
BOURGEOIS: As artists, there is no shortage of ideas. When we gather those ideas into a grant proposal, it is easy to get excited and overcommit at the onset. Once you receive that grant, you now have to deliver on all that you have promised! It can feel daunting at times. We have committed ourselves to many new projects with minimal staff. It’s a huge work load for the people involved. The thorniest issue to date really is the acknowledgment that we have enough projects scheduled and it is becoming a challenge with the staff we have to achieve our goals.
ARTPLACE: How have you dealt with it?
BOURGEOIS: We have to be really efficient with our communication and creating deadlines for ourselves because it is very easy in a year’s time to let any gap in the schedule throw things off. When you have a year from the award of the grant to completion, it doesn’t give a whole lot of planning time. The planning time is built into that year. All of the booking of the artists, contracting and figuring out people’s schedules has taken time and often artists aren’t available for the time slot you need them. Many of our artists are sought-after professionals and have their calendars worked out more than a year in advance. So securing them has been challenge. I have had to book two during the same time frame because that was the only time both could come. Normally, I would have spaced them out. Many of our activities are summer activities and they are loaded toward the end of the grant period.
One of the ways we have met this challenge is to include ArtPlace projects as part of other work we are doing here at the Center. For example, we have engaged master artists for the ArtPlace residencies and have asked them to instruct students who are participating in our after-school high school program. Art instruction is already part of the high school program and we usually contract that instruction out anyhow. Since we already had the artists here, they were willing to step in and teach the students. This provided an opportunity for the students to have access to high caliber artists and we didn’t have to search for and bring up additional artists for the program. It worked and was a win-win for all. Even though we are facing challenges, we are meeting them by discovering creative ways to implement our goals.