Alaska Native art displayed on the grounds outside.

ANHC Awarded Three-Year $800k Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) is pleased to announce that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded an $800k grant to support Utuqqanaatmiñ, a three-year initiative for innovative Indigenous programming to drive social change and community healing.

Through Utuqqanaatmiñ, an Inupiat word meaning “from our Elders,” ANHC will deepen an existing partnership with the Alaska Art Alliance. The Alaska Art Alliance is an Alaska Native-led cultural nonprofit whose mission is to support adults who struggle with addiction, homelessness, and reentry from incarceration; the Alliance provides them a place to work and reconnect with their authentic selves through arts and culture. Artists have firsthand experience with the power of healing through the creative process of making art that is culturally relevant and draws from Native traditions.

“The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Alaska Art Alliance share a common belief that Alaska Native People have endless potential,” said Emily Edenshaw, President and CEO of the Alaska Native Heritage. “We are thrilled to expand and enhance our work through this partnership to serve our community, and we are so grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing the value and importance of this effort.”

Like many organizations whose business is rooted in cultural tourism and interaction with stakeholders, operating through the pandemic this past year has meant unique challenges for ANHC. “But as Alaska’s only statewide cultural and educational center, our work has never mattered more to our people than in the current public health crisis,” Edenshaw said.

ANHC’s vision is a future where Alaska Native people thrive and their cultures are respected and valued. For Native people, the practice of art-making, as defined in English, is simply one of many ways Alaska Native people keep their spirits whole; to create art is to exist as one’s full and whole self. Additionally, embracing and continuing traditional art and culture engender healing and enforce identity.

“Utuqqanaatmiñ will sustain and create spaces for community healing that support people in connecting to their full selves and building self-determined futures,” Edenshaw said.

Over the next three years, ANHC will work with Alaska Art Alliance on multiple planned initiatives, including expanding exhibits that share living Alaska Native cultures, histories and experiences both onsite and throughout ANHC’s statewide area of service. ANHC will connect Alaska Native artists and apprentice learners; leverage resources to provide in-person and virtual exhibit space grounded in healing, truth-telling, and community change; and establish an art-based business co-op initiative with Art Alliance that establishes workshop and market space for its program participants.

“I believe that once one is capable of providing for his or herself, then he or she is capable of impacting others and creating an environment for them to do the same,” said Leon Kinneeveauk, leader of the Art Alliance. “This is the essence of the partnership between the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Alaska Art Alliance.”