14 Miles: Dispatches from an Island in Alaska
14 Miles is a documentary film project set in Sitka, Alaska, on an island in the panhandle of Southeast Alaska. It is a town of fewer than 9,000 people surrounded by mountains and ocean. While the distance from one end of Sitka to the other is not long (14.3 miles to be precise), the potential to engage people in creating a series of micro-documentaries about place and identity is abundant. These films address what we share and what divides us, as well as what makes us proud to live in Alaska. We will regularly release short films into the summer of 2019 via social media, broadcast, and placement on websites. In addition to online conversations, 14 Miles will host public gatherings and a series of locally-generated tours. 14 Miles is a project of Artchange, Inc.
Our stories and tours cover a range of topics and asks the following questions: What are the places and people that make up our community? What do we value as individuals and as a group? What are the stories that are unique to this particular place and time; what is going on in this moment that has never happened before? How do we share our perspectives with each other in contemporary times?
14 Miles is also an experiment in short-form storytelling. Serious, wry, curious: we’re digging and uncovering what might get passed by, even in a remote town with only 14 miles of road from one end to the other. The stories we want to share are local, but also universal. 14 Miles will share how this place connects, and at times doesn't, to the world "off the rock."
We invite everyone to participate, to suggest stories and tours, and to tell stories about the places they live and the challenges they face.
Episode 1: Our Journey Begins
We live in a time of dramatic changes—politically, ecologically, socially, economically—that are well documented in the media, news, and on social media. But what do these things mean for everyday people? What do new policies, weather patterns, migration changes, and gun laws mean for smaller communities, particularly a small town in southeast Alaska and what does daily life look like now? We are digging and uncovering what just might get passed by, even on an island town with only 14 miles of road from one end to the other. Using the local stories to ask universal questions—what does it mean to live in a community? Who are our neighbors? We want to explore these questions.
Episode 2: Giving Back We know how the last year of climate events, elections, laws, and legislation affect the country on a large scale. How can people find local connections and ways to give back? Here is one example. Thanks to Alaska Dave and the Salvation Army Corps. We're curious to hear about other examples in our community and beyond.
Episode 3: Guns and Democracy
On this episode of 14 Miles, we talk with former Sitka City Manager Mark Gorman about his experience in government. What does it mean to be a engaged in a community? What should a community expect of its citizens? These are the complicated questions we're exploring.
Episode 4: Family Business
This episode of 14 Miles raises the challenges of making ends meet in Sitka and the possibilities of starting a new business. How do new Marijuana laws impact the economy of a small town? How does the fast-growing cost of living influence who leaves and who stays?
Episode 5: Saturday in Sitka
We wanted to release Episode 5 on Thanksgiving, as we share food and think about what brings us together. How do we build community and support each other? What do we participate in and care about? We also wanted to note the song "Tsu héidei shugaxhtootaan (Celebration Entrance Song)" in the Native American Heritage Month and Veteran’s Day parade, which was composed by Harold Jacobs Jr, from a speech by elder George Davis, and gifted to the Sealaska Heritage Institute. It is based on the words, “We will open again this container of wisdom.”
Episode 6: Before the Curtain
Before the Curtain looks at Sitka School of Dance's annual Nutcracker preparations. This year, the school will present an Alaska-themed Nutcracker, featuring dancers as eagles, herring, bears, and crab. Outside of Sitka, what are your community's winter traditions? How do they reflect the geography of the place you live? How do they change as your community changes?
Episode 7: Bears in Town
It’s winter and the bears of Baranof Island are hibernating! Here is a slice of summer at the Fortress of Bears, a non-profit with a mission of rescuing and caring for orphaned bears. When the sanctuary was first proposed, a number of Sitkans were upset about the idea of wild animals in captivity. But now it is a main tourist attraction, with more than 20,000 visitors a year. What places in your community do you feel uncertain about? What would prompt you to go there and learn about them first hand?
14 Miles Challenge/Invite:
It's your turn.
A 14 Miles challenge/invite to help create an episode. Share a story of a time that has stuck with you, for whatever reason, when you told someone you are from or have been living in or visiting Alaska. Film yourself with your iPhone or Android phone or other device. Send your story to us by e-mailing video files to email@example.com or use the file upload feature of Facebook messenger, in a message with `14 Miles. Send us questions, too.
Episode 8: Resolutions
The transition to a New Year provokes reflection on the past year and what’s ahead. New Year’s resolutions tend to about self-improvement, but in 14 Miles-style, we also got locals reflecting on the community. What resolution-like ideas do you have for your community? How do your personal goals match with the goals of the community?
Episode 9: A Family that Ninja’s Together….
One of the fun parts of this project is spending time in new places within our small community. We’ve also have been thinking about the challenges and possibilities of operating a small businesses on this island. What corners or parts of your community have you never explored? What does it take to run a family business?
Episode 10: Karla's Story
In this episode, we spend time with Karla, a teen with a strong spirit and a story she was willing to share. These are large broad questions, but ones we will be touching on again in 14 Miles: What challenges do young people face in your community? How does the community provide support to them? Karla’s story was made with the help of Youth Advocates of Sitka, KCAW Raven Radio, and the Sitka Pioneer’s Home,
Episode 11: You're from Alaska?
For this episode of 14 Miles, we asked you to submit videos telling stories of how people reacted when you told them you’re from Alaska. We also gathered some stories in our own community. The responses we got ran the gamut from the stereotypical (“do you live in igloos?”) to the unexpected. We’re excited to share this episode with some of the highlights. Have you had similar experiences? Are there stereotypes and reactions that we missed? Outside of Alaska, how do people generalize on the region where you live?
Episode 12: Sitka Wearable Art
In this episode of 14 Miles we visited with some of the participants in the 10th annual Sitka Wearable Art show. We traveled around town to watch the last moments of preparation and talk about what it means to be involved in the show, about influences, challenges and lessons, and the creative process. With this episode the questions we’d like viewers to think about include: How does a project like this bring people together? Who gets to decide what something means: artist or viewers? What does it mean to the community?
Episode 13 Teaser: The Next Generation
One of our goals is to encourage others to be part of the process of making 14 Miles episodes. Here is a teaser for an upcoming episode made with 4th and 5th graders at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. A longer version is in the works. Thanks to all involved. Made as part of an artist in schools residency. AIS projects are supported by a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional funding from the Rasmuson Foundation.
Episode 13: The Next Generation
In this episode, 4th and 5th graders learn some documentary skills, interact with local adults, and think about what it means to contribute to the community. Made with students and teachers at at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary as part of an artist in schools residency. AIS projects are supported by a grant from Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for the Arts with additional funding from the Rasmuson Foundation.
Episode 14: Whose Fish?
In this episode, we jump into the fray with Southeast Alaska salmon #trollers fearful about their future. They're concerned about the state’s strategy for renegotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty, a formal agreement between the U.S. and Canada to cooperate in conservation and harvest sharing arrangements. It is a complicated story and our episode, “Whose Fish?” is a snapshot, resonating with questions about resource allocation, the negotiation of international treaties and livelihoods under stress.
Episode 15: The White Elephant
Our 14 Miles crew likes to go behind the scenes. In this episode our focus is on the beloved thrift store, the White Elephant. We learned a lot about “stuff” and how much this local non-profit donates back to the community. If you don’t live in Sitka, what kind of place like this would you tell a story about? If you do, what other places like the White E, do you think we should tell stories about?
Episode 16: The Land of Our Grandparents, Haa leelk’u has aani.
“Totem Park” is a place Sitkans go to walk dogs, take a jog, watch salmon swimming upriver, or pick a few huckleberries. In this episode, we got a different perspective on Sitka National Historical Park. In the first compacting agreement of its kind in U.S. history, Sitka Tribe has started to co-manage the park's historical interpretation in a new partnership between the Tribe and the National Park Service. This partnership is a model for other parks across the country, and brings up essential questions about the ownership of narrative, as well as the passing of its baton in locally significant, shared spaces.
Feedback and Ideas Welcome
We want feedback on the stories we share! Have an idea for a short? Want to help make a 14 Miles story? Prompted to go document similar stories in the place where you live? Simply want to share some thoughts you had after watching our stories?
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We're supported in part by the Greater Sitka Legacy Fund, the Alaska State Council for the Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.