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2016 Award Winners

2016 Award

Created by Tommy Joseph, Sitka

Tommy Joseph of the Eagle Moiety, Kaagwaantaan Clan, is a true child of Southeast Alaska’s coastal temperate rain forest. Born in Ketchikan and living in Sitka, Joseph has been actively engaged in Northwest Coast carving

for more than three decades as an instructor, interpreter, demonstrator, and commissioned artist. He maintained a year-round open working studio at the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in Sitka for more than a decade. There, he demonstrated and interpreted Northwest Coast carving for thousands of tourists, local students, apprentices, and researchers. The National Park Service entrusted him to restore and replicate some of the Park’s extensive and world renowned totem pole collection.

Joseph’s body of work represents a wide range of traditional Tlingit carving forms, including 35-foot totems, house posts, intricately carved and inlaid masks, and bentwood containers. He is also an avid researcher, educator, and creator of Tlingit ceremonial at.oow (treasured objects) and armor. Joseph is a past recipient of a USA Fellows Award, a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist award, and a Smithsonian Fellowship.
Photograph by Hal Gage

June Rogers, Lifetime Achievement Award for the Arts


Recently retired after 20 years as Executive Director of the Fairbanks Arts Association, June Rogers began her journey in the arts as a second grader, when she heard an Alaska Music Trails concert performer with a rich baritone voice sing “Ol’ Man River.” This inspired her to join choirs throughout her remaining school years. After working in construction contracting and raising two sons and a daughter, she discovered Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre (FLOT), a welcoming place for her love of singing and her knack for backstage work in costume and wig design. At FLOT, Rogers also eagerly participated in choreography and dance for the first time.


In 1981, Rogers became Company Manager for Alaska Repertory Theatre in Fairbanks (the Rep closed six years later). That year, Rogers found her niche at the Fairbanks Arts Association (FAA), where she began networking arts groups into a solid wheel of affiliate organizations with a monthly Community Arts meeting. Rogers later worked with other statewide groups such as Alaskans Hot for the Arts (AHA), becoming active in the arts throughout the state. She was a charter member of the Foraker Group’s Operations Board.

In 2013 and 2014, Rogers was one of 18 individuals in the nation invited by Americans for the Arts to participate in a convening of arts leaders at the Sundance Institute. She is the past recipient of an Interior Mayors’ Awards for the Arts, and a Girl Scouts Women of Distinction Award. Rogers and her husband, Bill, have performed music from Nome to Juneau with their band Sand Castle since 1981. Together they own and operate a recording studio and a coffee house, where they perform each weekend.

Steve Henrikson, Distinguished Service to the Humanities


For more than a quarter century, Steve Henrikson has served as curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum and adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska Southeast. In 1986, he came to Alaska as a seasonal curator at Sitka National Historical Park during a break from graduate studies at the University of Washington. Previously, he earned degrees in history and anthropology from Portland State University.

Henrikson’s work and life keep him deeply engaged with Alaska art and artists, with history and history makers, and with cultures and their descendants. He preserves, researches, develops, and exhibits Alaska’s permanent collection—30,000 historical and cultural artifacts and artwork.  He led the interpretive design for the new State Museum display, which opens this May in the new Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building. The exhibit features many of the thousands of objects he found, authenticated, and collected. His broad research interests include Russian crests and markers, Alaska architecture and maritime history, and Northwest Coast Native art and culture.

Henrikson is active with the professional group Museums Alaska and as a Tlingit Clan Conference organizer. He works extensively with Native elders, artists and cultural experts, scholars, and the general public. He and his museum colleagues also consult with communities and museums statewide on museum construction and operations, including the community of Klukwan in the planning of its new cultural center. Henrikson is an honorary member of the Dak’laweidi (Killer Whale) clan of the Angoon Tlingit, and participates in clan ceremonies. He and his wife, Janice Criswell, are both artists and have collaborated on several public art projects, including the suspended bird sculpture at the Juneau International Airport.

Nancy Decherney, Arts Advocacy


Nancy DeCherney was raised in Wrangell and Haines, and began performing at a very young age as a dancer with the Chilkat Indian Dancers. Later she was a dancer for ten years with the Lynn Canal Community Players in their summer stock production for visitors. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in General Literature from the University of Oregon, and then graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. DeCherney worked at the Fiddlehead Restaurant for many years, and then served as the Governor’s House chef for Bill Sheffield and Steve Cowper. She later served as House Manager for the families of both Governor Cowper and Governor Hickel.


DeCherney has worked at the University of Alaska Southeast in teacher training and with the Alaska State Writing Consortium. She has served both Jazz & Classics and the Juneau Symphony in administrative and board capacities, and is currently on the Jazz & Classics Advisory Board.

DeCherney was hired as the Executive Director for the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council in 2006. The following year with her guidance, the Council along with more than 200 community members, renovated the retired National Guard Armory and opened it as the Juneau Arts and Culture Center (JACC). The Council is now expanding the JACC to become the Willoughby Art Complex. DeCherney and her husband live in Juneau with their two cats – one of which paints on an iPad. They have two grown children who are both involved in the arts.

Lucy Ahvaiyak Richards, Distringuished Service to the Humanities


Lucy Ahvaiyak Richards has been an Iñupiaq Language Teacher for the North Slope Borough School District for more than 18 years. She teaches Iñupiaq language and culture to approximately 250 preschool, kindergarten, and 1st Grade students each week at Fred Ipalook Elementary School.


Ahvaiyak is an Iñupiaq, born and raised at the Top of the World in Pt. Barrow, Alaska. She and her mother, Jane Brower, have kept the tradition of bowhead whaling alive in their family since Ahvaiyak’s father, David K. Brower, passed away in 1985. She has served as her family’s whaling co-captain for the past 15 years. She is also a trustee and Sunday school teacher for Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church in Barrow. Her husband, Timothy Richards, Sr., passed away in late 2014.


Ahvaiyak has four children, 12 grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She cites her husband, parents, grandparents, and children as her inspiration for teaching, not only in in the public school, but also in her own home and throughout her community.

Cyrano's Theatre Company


Cyrano’s Theatre Company was founded by current Producing Artistic Director Sandy Harper and her late husband, Jerry Harper, in 1992.  Cyrano’s mission is to produce cutting-edge, classic, contemporary, and original plays, to provide Alaska theatre artists the opportunity to participate in live, professional theatre, and to practice their craft as actors, playwrights, director and technicians.


Cyrano’s Theatre Company commissioned and produced a series of five original plays in 2009, all written by Alaska playwrights on Alaska themes, to celebrate Statehood. In 2015, Cyrano’s produced Anchorage: The First 100 Years—A Theatrical Tour featuring a different decade in Anchorage history each week, in celebration of the city’s Centennial. Most recently, CTC commissioned resident playwright, Dick Reichman, to write The Ticket: An Imaginary Meeting Between Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond, to be produced this September.


Cyrano’s Theatre Company is an active civic partner in Anchorage, with memberships in the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, the Anchorage World Affairs Council, and Visit Anchorage.

Marc Swanson, Alaska Studies Educator of the Year


Marc Swanson came to Alaska in 1980 as an educator in rural villages including Bethel, Nulato, Togiak, and Tatitlek, before finally settling in Seward.  During this time, he developed a 6th grade research-based curriculum in which students collaborated with regional scientists and historians.

In 2012 Kenai Mountain Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area contracted Swanson to develop a series of curricula highlighting the human and geologic history of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula.  These included inquiry-based lessons exploring primary resources, an interactive field trip guide, teacher in-servicing, and an award-winning video series: This is Now and That was Then.  This 14-part series received the 2nd place National Association of Interpretation Digital Media Award and has been broadcast on Alaska PBS.  

Currently Swanson is working with the UAF Seward Marine Center to create and implement an educational outreach program for students and educators around the state.

Vicki Soboleff, Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts & Languages


Artist, performer, and teacher Vicki Soboleff was born in Seattle and raised in Ketchikan; she is Haida and Tlingit.  Soboleff has had numerous mentors in her life, most importantly her grandmother Vesta Johnson, who taught Soboleff the Haida language, songs and dance, and button-blanket making.

Soboleff reciprocated that mentorship by forming the youth dance group Lda Kut Naax Sati Yatx'i (All Nations Children) in 1995.  The goal of the dance group has been to promote self-esteem, confidence and leadership abilites through emphasis on prevention, academics and sobriety.  under her leadership, the group grew to over 100 members.  Some of the group's graduates now work with Native youth and are leaders in their communities.  Soboleff handed leadership of the group to former member Barbara Dude in 2015 and now participates as an advisor.

Soboleff's dedication to culture has been recognized by the Human Rights Commiession of the City and Borough of Juneau, the National Association for the Educaiton of Young Children and the AWARE Women of Distinction award.  She lives in Juneau with her partner Frederick Anderson.  She has three stepchildren and one daughter and works at Sealaska as Corporate Controller.

Patrick Garley, Individual Artist Award


Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pat Garley graduated from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where he obtained an Associate of Arts degree while working as a land developer and construction contractor. At the age of 38, he began studying sculpture and foundry arts at Mesalands Technical College in Tucumcari, NM, and discovered that making art from start to finish in metal, coupled with the excitement of melting and casting, gave him the freedom to create without boundaries. Garley spent the next two years developing his technical foundry and artistic sculptural skills, and assisted in creating bronze copies of dinosaur fossils for the Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum.

Garley moved to Alaska in 1999 with his wife Sandra and built his own studio. He has been a full-time artist since 2005, creating bronze sculptures at Arctic Fires Bronze Sculptureworks in Palmer. Garley has shown his work at galleries in Anchorage, Hope, and Palmer. His public art pieces include a full-scale statue in Seward commemorating the opening of the Iditarod Trail, a set of benches with bronze wildlife at Kodiak High School, a display of giant vegetables at the Palmer Museum of Art and History, and a life-sized bronze dog at Anchorage Fire Department Station 6. His commissioned bronze works in progress include a sculpture of Joe Redington and his dog team for the Mat-Su School District, and a sculpture of Jujiro Wada for the Resurrection Bay Historical Society in Seward.

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