Kivalina seawall in 2007. 2007

The Anchorage Museum is launching its Northern Initiative to look at its distinct Northern location as its greatest asset from which to reach out and connect with the rest of the globe on issues spanning culture, community and the environment.

ArtPlace spoke with Julie Decker, the Museum’s Chief Curator about the project.

ARTPLACE: What has to be done really (really) well to achieve success with the initiative and how the community might change as a result?

DECKER: Community outreach, diverse perspectives, vibrant programming and challenging ideas and discussions are key. People have to take notice and sense something new and transformative for the program to make a difference. We want to look for multiple ways to connect – locally, regionally, across the North, and globally. We want the community to feel more connected — to people, to place, to the environment, to issues and dialogue, and to feel less isolated geographically. We want to achieve a certain kind of energy that transforms, that reaches beyond the norm, that is aspirational rather than static. This is a challenge is a time when information is abundant and rapid and much happens on the internet rather than in physical spaces.

Our first major ArtPlace event occurs September 5-8, which coincides with the last weekend of the exhibition True North, which features contemporary art from the Circumpolar North regions. The event is the international Next North symposium, which brings together artists, architects, scientists, anthropologists, Native leaders, politicians and others from around the globe for three days of presentations and discussions about the primary issues facing the North today. The aim is to connect communities internationally to find shared goals, define a common vision for a Next North, and put in place concrete plans for collaborative research and engagement.

We are excited about the dialogue that will come out of the three days and the opportunity to include artists as researchers, scholars, activists, and key conveyors and makers of change. The symposium ends with public lectures and performances, including one by Inupiaq performance artist Allison Warden, who has a rap performance that is an ode to the polar bear.

The symposium places the insiders at the center – so that outsiders to the North are not the main messengers of the future. We want to approach the many challenges facing the North in a way that is necessarily complex, rather than a polarizing, black-and-white lens.

We will bring culture into the policy discussions through:
Charles Wohlforth, author, Alaska
Charles Stankievech, artist, Canada
Joan Navlyuk Kane, poet, Alaska
Liam Young, Architectural Association, London
Paul Ongtooguk, Professor, University of Alaska
Elizabeth Ogilvie, artist, Scotland,
Kevin Schmidt, artist, Canada
Da-ka-xeen Mehner, artist, Alaska
Betty Beier, artist, Germany
Zacharias Kunuk, filmmaker, Canada
Jack Dalton, storyteller, Alaska
Maya Saganek, multimedia artist, Alaska
Mason White, architect, Canada
Marko Peljhan and Matthew Biederman, Arctic Perspective Institute
Vera Metcalf, Inuit Circumpolar Council
Charles Bettisworth, architect, Alaska
Subhankar Banerjee, photographer, Seattle
Allison Warden, performance artist, Alaska
Elizabeth Brown, museum curator, Seattle
Jonny Hayes, landscape architect, Alaska

We are partnering with the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, on the project and the Alaska Design Forum. The Alaska Design Forum is working on an exciting project called ReLOCATE, which we will feature during the symposium. In Northwest Alaska sea levels are rising, permafrost is melting, and entire villages are falling into the sea. This session aims to address the challenges, issues and opportunities surrounding village relocation. The isolated whaling community of Kivalina, home to around 400 people, is facing immanent relocation and the need for viable futures is urgent. The Alaska Design Forum’s ReLocate project involves a group of social artists from around the world working with a group of delegates from Kivalina and the Alaska Design Forum to initiate a new, community-led and culturally specific relocation. Participants will discuss how the project is harnessing the global power of artistic collaboration though contemporary media as a means for channeling the wide, global recognition of the village’s dillema into to a culturally and ecologically sensitive relocation of Kivalina village. Participant Presenters will be: Members of the village of Kivalina (Colleen Swan and Janet Mitchell); members of the Wolchenhasuer collective, (Claudia Eipeldauer; Alon Schwabe, Hannah Ollinger, and Nisan Almog); the KVAK team, from the California College of the Arts (Floris Schönfeld, Teresa Baker, and Jesus Landin-Torrez III); and representatives of the Alaska Design Forum.

For us, this is an important start to our Northern Initiative.

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OCTOBER 2, 2012

The Northern Initiative

Anchorage, AK