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2017 Award Winners
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2017 Award

Created by Margo Klass and Frank Soos, Fairbanks

Photograph by Hal Gage

Bob Banghart, Distinguished Service to the Humanities


Since the early 1970s, designer and composer Robert Banghart has pursued a dual path of music and museums in Alaska.

After graduating from University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bob founded the design firm Banghart & Associates.  He then spent 30 years traveling throughout the state working with communities to define and develop sustainable cultural and historical institutions, including the design and construction of ten new museums and cultural centers.

In 2007, Bob joined the staff of the Alaska State Museum as Curator of Exhibitions.  Later serving as Deputy Director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, he played a leadership role in the design and construction of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum Building in Juneau.  Banghart left state service in late 2016 to return to his private sector roots.

As a musician and composer, Bob has performed throughout Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest since 1974.  He co-founded the Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Jazz and Classics - two annual weeklong festivals in their 43rd and 30th years respectively.  Bob began composition work with the 1991 Perseverance Theater production, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.  He since has socred over a dozen theater productions and an opera.  He currently is working on the musical adaptation of Alaska author Eowyn Ivey's novel The Snow Child for the Arena Stage in Washington, DC.

Bob lives in Juneau with his wife Laura Lucas and dog Jasmine.

Marilyn Davidson, Arts Education


Marilyn Davidson based her career on the belief that arts education is vital for every student, providing creative opportunities for learners to understand their humanity. As a music educator, the essential questions of her classroom were: "How can I express myself through music?" and "How can I better understand others through music?"  

Born and raised in Southeastern Ohio, Marilyn has lived in Kodiak since 1989. She is currently the Assistant Superintendent for the Kodiak Island Borough School District.  In that role she offers strong support for KIBSD’s arts programs, where music and art opportunities exist across the district in both face-to-face and virtual settings. 

Marilyn is a major advocate for STEAM education, stressing that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will not move our culture forward without the creativity of the arts. Davidson has been the KIBSD representative to the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program since 2000, has served on the National Advisory Committee for the program, and was nominated by the Kennedy Center for committee service with U.S. Department of Education.  

Marilyn is a founding member of the Alaska Arts Education Consortium and has worked with the Alaska State Council on the Arts on various projects including the New Visions Project, working to reform and empower artist residencies in schools across Alaska.  

Charlotte Fox, Lifetime Achievement Award for the Arts


Charlotte Fox came to Alaska in 1970 for a summer job at a construction camp outside of Juneau. She never left, except to receive a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.  Charlotte worked for UAF for a brief stint while her husband, hometown sweetheart Mike Steinbaugh, studied mechanical engineering.  They moved to Anchorage in 1981.

Charlotte grew up in an artistic home, but didn’t consider a career in arts administration until she was offered the job of the Executive Director of Alaska Junior Theater in 1988, which she held for 10 years. It was the first year of operation of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and AJT was a resident company.  As a one person office, Charlotte was responsible for everything from bookkeeping to managing the huge cadre of volunteers.  

In 2001, she was offered the Executive Director position at the Alaska State Council on the Arts.  For the next 11 years, Charlotte advocated for arts and culture in Alaska, the western region, and nationally. Under her leadership, the Council grew from a grant-making body to an organization heavily involved in statewide arts and culture policy. 

Charlotte cofounded the Alaska Arts Education Consortium, which provides intensive arts education summer institutes for hundreds of teachers. 

Charlotte and Mike live in Anchorage, where they raised their sons, Kirk and Taylor.

Ernestine Hayes, Alaska State Writer Laureate


Ernestine Hayes was born and raised in Juneau when Alaska was still a territory. When she was fifteen years old, she and her mother moved to California. When Ernestine turned forty, she resolved to come home or die with her thoughts facing north. It took her eight months to get from San Francisco to Ketchikan. She finally made it back to Juneau two years later. 

After returning home, Ernestine enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast, eventually receiving an MFA in creative writing and literary arts. She currently teaches creative writing at the university.

Among other well-known works, Ernestine is the author of Blonde Indian, An Alaska Native Memoir. Published in 2004, Blonde Indian received an American Book Award, was named a Native America Calling Book of the Month, and was a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize and the PEN Nonfiction Award. It was also the first book selected for Alaska Reads, a program launched by her immediate predecessor as Writer Laureate, Frank Soos.  

Ernestine’s latest book, The Tao of Raven, uses the story of Raven and the Box of Daylight to express her ongoing frustration and anger at the obstacles and prejudices still facing Alaska Natives in their own land.

Ernestine belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Eagle side of the Tlingit nation. She has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Lani Hotch, Arts Business Leadership


Lani Hotch was born and raised in the Chilkat Valley and still makes her home there with her husband of 38 years, Jones Hotch, Jr.  Lani and Jones have three grown children and one grandchild. Lani has worked in her home village of Klukwan for most of her adult life in the school, while her children were still attending there, and tribal and non-profit organizations. 

While Lani worked at the Klukwan School she initiated a Tlingit Language and Cultural Arts program that is still being carried forward today by other community members. She is one of the founding members of the non-profit Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center and currently serves as its Executive Director. Lani led the capital campaign for the Heritage Center project, serving as the owner’s manager during construction, and then as project director for all exhibits.

Lani began learning Chilkat Weaving from her grandmother, Jennie Warren. Her major works include Basket Mother Robe, which was featured in the Manawa: Pacific Heartbeat show at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. in 2005; Tsirku River Robe, which won second place in the Contemporary Arts division at the Sealaska Juried Art Show in Juneau, Alaska in 2006; and Berries on Sunshine Mountain, featured in the Time Warp exhibit at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. in 2011. 

Lani is also known as a local author and historian. She is passionate for her work and her community.  

Kathleen Carlo Kendall, Alaska Native Arts


Kathleen Carlo Kendall was born in Tanana, Alaska, and spent her early years living on the Yukon River. Her parents, Bill and Poldine Carlo, moved the family from the villages to Fairbanks to keep Kathleen and her eight siblings together rather than sending the older ones away to boarding school. The family mined for gold and fished in the summers.


In the late 1970s, Kathleen joined the Native Art Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and studied under revered Alaska Native carver Ron Senungetuk. Her first show featured carved masks made during her BFA program. After graduating from UAF she focused on panels and larger sculptures which provided greater opportunities for her to explore abstract forms in wood in combination with metal, paint, and found objects. Kathleen has supported herself through commissions, major museum purchases, and from teaching traditional mask-making in Alaska villages.


Since 1990, Kathleen has worked as a Native Arts carving instructor for the University of Alaska Summer Fine Arts Camp. Her works can be seen in the collections of the UAF Museum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Doyon Limited, Doyon Utilities, the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, the Fairbanks Cancer Center, and numerous private collections in and outside Alaska.


Kathleen was one of 36 artists awarded a 2015 U.S. Artist Fellowship and traveled to Mexico and Cuba as a Rasmuson Fellow in Traditional Arts.

Heather Lende, Distinguished Service to the Humanities


Haines writer Heather Lende has been active in arts, cultural, athletic, and civic matters for over 30 years. 

Heather is the author of three best-selling nonfiction books that share small town Alaska with the world: If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name (2005), Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs (2011), and Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer (2015). These works are based on community, family, and matters of life and death. Heather is the obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News, a longtime columnist for the Alaska Dispatch News, and a former contributing editor to Woman’s Day magazine. Hundreds of her columns and essays have been published in Alaska and beyond.

Heather currently hosts a country music show and is on the board of community radio KHNS; she is a board member for Hospice of Haines, and serves on the Haines Borough Assembly. 

For 17 years Heather coached the Haines High cross country running teams and served many years on the Haines Borough Public Library board. Heather is a founding member of the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation and was given the Bishop’s Cross award for service to the Episcopal Church in Alaska. She has a BA in history from Middlebury College and an MFA from UAA. 

She is married to Chip Lende. They have five children and six grandchildren.

Lance Petersen, Individual Artist Award


Lance Petersen has been part of the arts in Alaska for more than 50 years. He was born in Bay City, Michigan, but has lived in Alaska since the 1940s, when his father came up to work as a welder building airports on the Aleutian Islands. Lance grew up in Anchorage, where his family ran a popular gambling hall on 4th Avenue; and Kenai, where his mother opened a dance studio.

Lance’s love of theater, drama, and the arts grew while attending Alaska Methodist University, where he graduated with a degree in Speech and Drama. He moved to Homer in the late 1960s. He was one of four brave souls who chipped in $50 each in 1971 to start Pier One Theatre, which is still going strong and creating local live theater in Homer more than 45 years later. 

Lance later earned a Master’s degree in Speech and Drama from the University of Alaska; taught humanities at the Kenai Peninsula College for 30 years; designed and ran the Homer High School theater for 20 years; and served on the Arts Council. Lance has directed or produced four plays a year since 1971 and is grateful for this opportunity to celebrate the arts in Alaska with fellow award recipients.


Robert Sparks, Alaska Studies Educator of the Year


Veteran educator Rob Sparks is co-founder of Classroom Without Walls (CWOW), a groundbreaking approach to instruction that uses technology such as video conferencing to connect students and teachers with interactive lessons anywhere in the world.  CWOW lessons have made it possible for students studying George Orwell’s Animal Farm to interview a Russian immigrant whose father survived a Gulag during the Stalin dictatorship; and for high school students to collaborate with peers in the Lower 48, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Afghanistan.

The CWOW program was recognized in 2011 by Artifacts for Alaskans by Alaskans, a state competition hosted by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

For several years Rob has team-taught world history and Alaska Studies with his colleague Greg Zorbas. Their collaborative model has revolutionized the learning experience in their classrooms. Rob’s current project is creating a collaborative network of Alaska teachers. Rob was recognized as a BP Teacher of Excellence and BP State Teacher of the Year for the Kenai Peninsula in 2013.  Rob was also a recipient of the U.S. Distance Learning Association Gold Award in 2016.

Rob taught Social Studies at Skyview High School for 23 years and is now in his third year at Soldotna Preparatory School.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten, Distinguished Service to the Humanities


Since moving to Alaska from Los Angeles more than 38 years ago, Shirley Mae Springer Staten has steadfastly used her artistic talents, resourcefulness, and organizational skills to strengthen appreciation for diverse cultures and to promote greater understanding between Alaskans of different backgrounds.

Her accomplishments include coordinating a citywide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, the Young Women’s Leadership Conference, the Alaska Native Heritage Center Native Leadership conference, and cultural performances for the opening of the new wing of the Anchorage Museum. She also has formed activities for “Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People” for the Arctic Studies Center (Smithsonian Institution), and she arranged for teacher participation in Alaska Native Culture Camps and for underprivileged student participation in the Home Base After School Program.

In 2015, Shirley Mae and two colleagues ensured that the contributions of minorities were documented and celebrated during the Anchorage Centennial. In 2016 alone, she was a driving force behind three major projects: the Camp Kaleidoscope Culture Camp for youth, the Anchorage Cultural Summit, and the Hiland Mountain Lullaby Project. 

Shirley's performing arts career includes writing and performing as part of the Artists in Residence program for the Alaska State Council on the Arts, writing and acting in theater performances, and recording three CDs.

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