PUBLISHED: 4:28 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2007
United States Artists launch Alaska program
Beginning this month, United States Artists, a new organization devoted to supporting America's finest living artists, will send six 2006 USA Fellows to Alaska to participate in an unprecedented, statewide artist-in-residence program. Alaska AIR is collaboration between USA and the Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation. Five Alaskan cultural institutions - Alaska Dance Theatre, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, Perseverance Theatre, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks - will host the first residencies with artists selected from the pool of 2006 USA Fellows.

Made possible by a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation of Anchorage, one of the founding supporters of USA, Alaska AIR provides opportunities for short and long-term residencies at each of the host organizations. The broad range of creative experiences available through these partnerships reflects the breadth of artistic disciplines represented by the USA Fellows program, which recognizes outstanding artists by awarding 50 unrestricted grants of $50,000 annually. The first 50 USA Fellowships were awarded in December 2006, totaling $2.5 million.

"I am pleased to see this ambitious new program taking root within the state of Alaska," said Diane Kaplan, president of the Rasmuson Foundation and a founding member of the USA Board of Directors. "Alaska AIR continues Rasmuson's commitment to supporting arts and culture throughout Alaska, and at the same time, brings great artists from around the country into our state to enrich our institutions and communities."

"United States Artists is committed to providing new opportunities for America's finest creative talent, both through financial support and programs that catalyze new artistic expression," said USA Executive Director Katharine DeShaw. "With the generous support of the Rasmuson Foundation, we have established this exciting partnership that will expose USA Fellows to native cultures, important arts communities, and dramatic landscapes unlike any in the continental U.S. At the same time, we hope the work of the USA Fellows will benefit Alaskan cultural organizations and enrich the audiences that experience these programs."

Last spring, the 2006 USA Fellows applied for opportunities at the host organizations. Interested artists were paired with the cultural institution best suited to support the scope and needs of each project.

In Juneau, USA Broad Fellow Catherine Opie will collaborate with Perseverance Theatre on a set design for one of their 2008 productions. She will be in Juneau Aug. 28-Sept. 8. Opie's technical expertise and conceptual rigor have made her one of the leading photographers in the country, but this will be her first venture into theater and set design. The Perseverance Theatre presents classical works, contemporary premieres, plays, and musicals to the tightly-knit community of Juneau, which is only accessible by boat or plane. Working closely with the director, Opie will re-create the visual world of the surroundings of Juneau in relationship to landscape and bring her unique perspective to the group experience of live theater. In addition, her time in Juneau will give her a chance to document the local community with her camera.

"This is such a unique opportunity for me to interact with an entirely different context - environmentally and culturally," said Michael Joo, who will be in residence at the Anchorage Museum this fall. "I've always been interested in how older traditions and contemporary technology can be juxtaposed within my art, and Alaska will be an amazing place to inform that work."