The Governor's Arts and Humanities Awards is an annual partnership between the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, and the Office of the Governor to recognize and honor noteworthy contributions to the arts and humanities in Alaska.
Each year, these partners select awardees in several distinct categories, based on nominations submitted by the public.
Congratulations to the 2020 awardees!
Distinguished Service to the Humanities | Community: Kodiak History Museum, Kodiak
The Kodiak History Museum (KHM), known until 2019 as the Baranov Museum, serves as an essential and beloved community resource dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and sharing the full breadth of the history of the Kodiak archipelago. KHM is leading the way in decolonizing small museums and has proven to be a catalyst of change in Kodiak, strengthening community by forging connections between people across race, class, and cultural divides.
Distinguished Service to the Humanities | Leadership: Bill Legere, Juneau
In his 40 year career in Alaska, most of it at the helm of KTOO in Juneau, Bill Legere has devoted himself to improving the civic, intellectual, and cultural life of Alaska. His hard work and quiet leadership have touched almost every Alaskan. He transformed KTOO from a conventional public broadcasting station to a statewide leader in news and has nurtured the careers of dozens of talented reporters, producers, editors, and media makers.
Distinguished Service to the Humanities | Education: Rachel Epstein, Anchorage
During a tenure that spanned nearly 20 years, Rachel Epstein organized and hosted over 900 events covering every imaginable and important topic in Alaska’s history and culture. In her tenure as the Special Events Coordinator of the UAA campus, Epstein turned the campus bookstore into a forum for inquiry, conversation, and expression.
Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities: Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy, Juneau (posthumous award)
Juneau lost a beloved leader, volunteer, advocate, and community member when longtime resident Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy passed away on September 10, 2020. Ruddy served the Juneau community for over forty years as an attorney and public servant, volunteer, and donor. “Ruddy was widely known and highly respected in the community for supporting and championing a diverse and large number of arts-related causes and non-profit arts organizations,” writes Linda Rosenthal, co-founder of Juneau Jazz & Classics. “She has become one of Juneau’s foremost advocates for the arts and, as such, has made a profound impact on the community’s cultural landscape.”
Government Leadership in the Arts: City and Borough of Juneau, Juneau
The City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) has provided consistent, impactful support for arts, culture, and heritage work in Alaska’s capital city. The CBJ has improved the quality of life and made possible work that has inspired generations of Juneau school children to think of a life in the arts as a real possibility.
Individual Artist Award: Alaskan Dale DeArmond, Juneau (posthumous award)
Alaskan author, artist, and printmaker Dale DeArmond is renowned for her intricate wood block prints incorporating local legend and lore and showing a great reverence for the rich oral traditions and legends of Alaska’s First People.
Arts Business Leadership: Juneau Radio Center, Juneau
Juneau Radio Center has provided coverage and advertising for arts and cultural activities of all kinds for many years, annually donating over $1 million of free promotional airtime to local community groups, in addition to regular community-based programming, such as “Capital Chat”, “Action Line” and KINY’s Problem Corner.
Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Native Arts and Languages: Markle Pete, Glenallen (posthumous award)
Elder Markle Pete was instrumental in the perpetuation of the Ahtna Athabascan language in Chickaloon Native Village and in his home community of Tazlina. He taught language lessons in the community and in the Ya Ne Dah Ah School from 1998 to 2013, traveling great distances to educate students and Tribal citizens. In addition, he led efforts to document the Ahtna Athabascan language through recordings of words and phrases.
Each year, an Alaskan artist is commissioned to create a series of unique awards to present to the awardees. This year's awards are by Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax) of Sitka.
Nicholas Galanin’s work engages contemporary culture from his perspective rooted in connection to land. He embeds incisive observation into his work, investigating intersections of culture and concept in form, image and sound.
Galanin's works embody critical thought as vessels of knowledge, culture and technology - inherently political, generous, unflinching, and poetic. Galanin engages past, present and future to expose intentionally obscured collective memory and barriers to the acquisition of knowledge.
His works critique commodification of culture, while contributing to the continuum of Tlingit art. Galanin employs materials and processes that expand dialogue on Indigenous artistic production, and how culture can be carried.
His work is in numerous public and private collections and exhibited worldwide. Galanin apprenticed with master carvers, earned his BFA at London Guildhall University, and his MFA at Massey University. He currently lives and works with his family in Sitka.
Photos by Michael Conti; they are copyrighted and may not be used without prior permission.
Click on the buttons below to learn more about past awardees. Click here to see a full list of all awardees, 1968-2019.