ImagiNative Alaska Experience

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Funding Received: 2012
Anchorage, AK
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
May 1, 2013

It’s hard to believe the time of our grant period is coming to an end. In the initial stages of the grant term, we spend a significant amount of time planning. It was winter, and since our city is at its busiest in the summer months, the majority of our activities are being implemented toward the end of the grant term. We have three artist’s activities at the end of August. Two of our commissioned art pieces are being completed and the final master artist residency is taking place. In September, we will have the Harvest Festival and in October, the Circumpolar Music and Dance Festival.

I have learned some invaluable lessons during the last year and if I had it to do over again, I would pare down the amount of activities and deliverables we promised. After looking at some of the other grant proposals out there where one major activity was intended to be implemented during the grant period, I realized we had been too ambitious. We planned a tremendous assortment of programming with only a programming grant. There is very little staff support written into the grant. I have been focused on the ArtPlace programming, but it isn’t my only responsibility. It’s been a challenge getting it done and getting it done on time. We are doing it, but in hindsight, I wished we would have approached some things differently. It’s been complex. So, in addition to narrowing down the programming, I would include staff support in the grant proposal.

In addition, I would counsel new grant recipients to consider timelines carefully in their planning. For instance, it can be one thing to commission an artwork and quite another to get it installed. The political process involved in getting a work installed is much more complex than I would have expected; it’s a challenging process to accomplish in a year. It really takes multiple year planning. The wheels turn slowly. Our city has a One Percent for Art program, which insures that all municipal buildings have a piece of commissioned art installed on the property. We started working with the municipality from the onset to install one of our commissioned pieces. They were very enthusiastic about the idea, but they have their own process to go through which we were unaware of at the time. There advisory board would not make a final decision to install the piece until after they had the opportunity to view and consider the completed piece. I had anticipated that we would work together and they would find a place for it. I would advise new grantees to investigate these processes ahead of time before making a time sensitive commitment.

This brings me to my third and final suggestion: always have a fallback position, a plan B so to speak. The piece we commission for the one percent art installation is a steel structure of an Inupiat box drum by artist Larry Ahvakana. The city is very interested in the piece, but, again, won’t be able to make the final decision until after the piece is completed. The good news - the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation has already expressed in interest in acquiring the drum if the city chooses not to install it. They are so excited about the idea that they are willing to donate the welding to install the piece pro bono. These types of back up plans can end up being better than the original plan. You can only plan so far. Staying open to the organic changes that come up opens doors we may not have even thought to knock on.