The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded only six grants in Alaska for the coming year, and Sitka organizations will receive two of them. The Sitka Fine Arts Camp and the Sitka Summer Musical Festival will get $40,000 and $12,500, respectively.
In a news release, the NEA’s deputy chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable experiences for the public to engage with the arts.”
Sitka Fine Arts Camp director Roger Schmidt says that recognition from the NEA sends a message to potential funders.
“It comes with quite a bit of prestige it means that your program has achieved a level of excellence at the national level.
The $40,000 award for the camp is twice the amount most programs receive.
Although the application is highly competitive, both the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and the Sitka Summer Music Festival have a long history of securing annual NEA funding.
The NEA selection committee favors programs with significant outreach, and both programs are strong in this area.
Sitka Summer Music festival director Kayla Boettcher says that over the course of its touring history the festival has organized concerts in 33 Alaskan communities. “What we’ve been doing since 1972 is bringing professional level classical musicians to Alaska and we’re the only organization in the state that does that.”
To continue sharing high caliber music across the state Boettcher says the biggest hurdle is the cost of sending musicians to different venues. That’s where the grant money is most needed.
Sitka Fine Arts Camp director Schmidt says the grant will help with financial aid, and will serve a wide-range of students across the state. “We serve all of Alaska from the very smallest villages to our larger cities. I think this summer we had 37 Alaska communities represented. I think that is really one of our strong points – the amount of students and the diversity of students we serve throughout Alaska.”
Boettcher is pleased that this year’s NEA funding is slightly more than last year. She says that’s a good sign. “That’s really a nice nod from this national organization to the work that we’re doing across the state of Alaska, I think.”
The NEA awarded a total of $123,000 to six arts organizations in the state. Nationally, the NEA handed out $26-million to over 1,000 organizations.