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Sitka artist wins $50,000 grant

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Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 11:35 am

SITKA, Alaska - Sitka artist Nicholas Galanin has been named the 2012 recipient of the $50,000 Rasmuson Fellowship from United States Artists.

Galanin, a Tlingit and Aleut artist, said he found out about the award a few months ago, but had to keep quiet about it until the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization made the official announcement Monday.

He said he was pleased to be recognized.

"It felt really good, it felt like it was a huge honor," Galanin said Tuesday, on his way home from the awards ceremony held Sunday and Monday in Los Angeles.

He enjoyed meeting the other artists, who are from the fields of music, performing arts, literature, visual arts and media, he said. "There were some really amazing folks, and it was a great honor to be in their company. They've all been doing amazing work."

The award comes with an unrestricted grant. Galanin isn't sure how he will spend it but has his eye on some creative endeavors, as we ll as everyday needs, such as a house down payment or paying off student loans. Galanin, at 33, was one of the youngest artists honored in the 2012 USA Fellowship program, and the only Alaska artist this year.

Galanin is known in Sitka mostly for his music and silver carving, but works across a broad range of media. He lives in Sitka but commutes to Victoria, B.C., as the 2012-13 Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Victoria. He has shows all over the United States, Canada and other parts of the globe. He won a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award in 2011.

USA is a nonprofit organization that has spent $20 million since 2006 in support of "America's finest artists." This year, 50 fellowships were given to 54 artists, including novelist Annie Proulx, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Shipping News"; and legendary jazz musician Jack DeJohnette.

"Reflecting the diversity of artistic practice in America, they in clude cutting edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music and visual arts," USA said in a news release.

Galanin, a multimedia artist, was listed under the "craft and traditional visual arts" category in the awards announcement, but describes his art in his Fellows profile as "contemporary multimedia work that transcends the familiar, time-honored iconography of Tlingit and Northwest Coast art."

"Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds," he said in his Artist Statement online. "My art enters this stream at many different points, looking backwards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit creativity and contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the 'Indian Art World' and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom .

"Concepts drive my medium. I draw upon a wide range of indigenous technologies and global materials when exploring an idea. Adaptation and resistance, lies and exaggeration, dreams, memories and poetic views of daily life - these themes recur in my work, taking form through sound, texture, and image. Inert objects spring back to life; kitsch is reclaimed as cultural renewal; dancers merge ritual and rap. I am most comfortable not knowing what form my next idea will take, a boundless creative path of concept-based motion."

Galanin told the Sentinel that he works more with "concepts" than concentrating in a particular medium.

"I like to work with ideas and dialog - ideas that create dialog for an audience," he said. "It's creating new dialog that needs to take place."

His work was featured in the Vancouver Art Gallery's recent survey of artists who connect Aboriginal identity and urban youth culture. A smaller version of the show opens at Toronto's Power Plan t on Dec. 15. His work was also featured in group shows at Vancouver's Grunt Gallery and Bill Reid Gallery over the past year. Trench Contemporary Art, his Vancouver dealer, recently wrapped a solo show titled "I LOOOOOVE YOUR CULTURE." His work was also in Montreal gallery Art Mur's "A Stake in the Ground" earlier this year.

His work can also be seen at Musée D'Art Contemporain De Baie St-Paul, Quebec, Canada; Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Ariz.; Sealaska Heritage Foundation, Juneau; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, N.H.; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.; Anchorage Museum; Pratt Museum, Homer; Museum of the North, UAF, Fairbanks; Alaska State Museum, Juneau; Shee Atika Inc. collection, Sitka; Sir John Cass, London, U.K.; and Burke Museum, Seattle.

Galanin's study has included apprenticeships with his father Dave Galanin and uncle Will Burkhart; a bachelor of fine arts degree in jewelry design and silversmithing from London Guildhall University; and master's coursewo rk in indigenous visual arts at Massey University in New Zealand.

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