ImagiNative Alaska Experience

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Funding Received: 2012
Anchorage, AK
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 26, 2012

The ImagiNative Alaska Experience, a project of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, will rebrand Anchorage as a center of Native arts by embedding it throughout the city through permanent and temporary interventions, including public art commissions, art markets, small business training, a roving Native Art cart and cultural flash mobs.

ArtPlace caught up with Ed Bourgeois, Director of Community Engagement at the Alaska Native Heritage Center:

ARTPLACE: Have you gained any political traction with your efforts? If so, with whom and how did you to it?

BOURGEOIS: In our last blog, we discussed the importance of working with the Downtown Partnership to reach our place making goals. In the same way, a recent collaboration with the municipality is providing new opportunities to take Alaska Native art into the community.

A happy coincidence recently occurred. At the same time that the Center was mulling over a possible new performance art piece, the Municipality of Anchorage announced plans for the development of a centennial celebration in 2015 to honor the founding of our city. They were looking for community members to sit on various committees and asked us to consider joining the cultural committee. Participating at the early planning stages of this event gives us an opportunity to tell the history of the city from Alaska Native perspective through this new performance art piece we are developing.

The idea of a performance piece around ArtPlace has to do with taking Alaska Native music and dance and pushing the envelope - really taking it to a new place. Currently what is performed at the Center is traditional in form. For the most part, the form is drum and voice and the dance that goes with it. Some of the dances may have been written within the last century, but the dance vocabulary, the dance moves, the styles, rhythm and instruments used remain constant.

The question we are asking is what is the cutting edge of Alaska Native art? What is the next form of Alaska Native art for contemporary artists? When this exploration occurred in other cultural groups and populations, artists embraced the opportunity to seek out innovative ways to artistically communicate their experiences. We are hoping for the same response in the Alaska Native art movement.

With the opportunity to participate in the centennial celebration, we can now take these ideas and infuse them into a performance art piece that talks of the history of the Anchorage area before the formation of this western city as we know it. The story of our city goes back further than a century. It began much earlier with the indigenous people who resided here previously. This is the story that needs to be shared.

When we can make these kinds of collaborations with the municipality we develop a presence in the city’s political environment which sets the foundation for future projects. We are excited to see it all come together.