Tracing Roots: Delores Churchill–A Weaver’s Journey Trailer from Artchange, Inc. on Vimeo.
Hillary: What’s been a challenge you’ve faced in Alaska, that you imagine many working artists have to overcome?
Ellen: Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about isolation. Even with all the beauty, it’s challenging at times to be here. After all, this is an island. You have to take a plane or boat to get here. The arts scene, from some angles, can seem safe and not strong on pushing boundaries. Meanwhile, since the pulp mill closed the town in the mid 90’s, Sitka has been gentrifying. It’s become a lot less blue collar than it once was, including a flow of interns, fellows and young college educated energy. It is fun to see the newer generations discover the place and to witness new things happen, but also troubling to see locals not being able to afford to live here.
I’m thankful to the Rasmuson Foundation for supporting and recognizing the work of individual artists in Alaska and for partnering with Creative Capital. I was excited to attend the professional development workshop and also look forward to diving into the online courses. For one it was a joy to sit at the table with such a powerful group of artists from around the state, including Earl Atchak, a Yupik Mask maker, Erin Hollowell, a non-native poet working on her third collection of poetry and Itzel Yarger-Zagal, a bilingual poet, focusing on her experiences emigrating from Mexico and the stories of other migrants in Anchorage. I came away from the workshop with a heightened perspective on what it means to be a sustainable artist, to sustain yourself and do your work.
My handwritten scrawls from the workshop include these words from Beverly McIver: “Voices steal joy…continue to do work…reach back. Don’t assume want to be at the top of things.” And this from Colleen Keegan: “take chaos out of what is not creative…. who do you really want to work with going forward?” There were specific pointers and lessons on productivity, fundraising and business plans that I will make use of for both my own projects and projects that partner with, Artchange, Inc., the small nonprofit I direct. I wanted to end on my own self-plea to say “No.” I’ve spent many of the last years jumping at opportunities, be it a collaboration with a nonprofit, a free-lance gig or an invitation to screen a film. I’m ready to do less and do it more intentionally. Then maybe the next batch of salmon won’t be so dry and chewy,