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Three Sitka artists, three grants…one surname

Sitka artist Dave Galanin in his studio. Photo by Greta Mart.

Sitka artist Dave Galanin in his studio. Photo by Greta Mart.

Last month, the Rasmuson Foundation announced the recipients of this year’s individual artist awards and grants. Several Sitka artists were on that list, and three of them share the same last name. KCAW’s Greta Mart recently caught up with them to talk about art and family.

“I am Kaagwaantaan and I am from the Eagle Nest house.”

That’s Tlingit master carver Dave Galanin. Over three decades of artistic endeavors in Sitka, Dave has received lots of recognition for his work. But this year something unusual happened. Not only did Dave receive a sizeable grant from Alaska’s Rasmuson Foundation, his two sons, Nicholas and Jerrod Galanin, also received artist grants from the same private foundation.

“This is definitely the first time we’ve had individuals from the same family receive awards in the same year.”

That’s Foundation spokesman Jason Smart.

Every year, hundreds of Alaskan artists submit grant applications to the Rasmuson foundation, which directly supports artists working and living in the state.

When the 2014 recipients were announced, it took the Galanins by surprise. Here’s Dave again:

“I didn’t know that my boys had put in for it, and they didn’t know I did. When I got the call, I was down at the beach throwing the ball for my dog…and I get a phone call and its a guy from Rasmuson and it was…it was hard to contain myself , I was pretty excited.”

They told him not to tell anyone until Foundation staff made an official announcement.

“So I didn’t say anything.Then I got a call from Jerrod, and he said, ‘hey dad. I got some good news. I got the Rasmuson.’ And I said, ‘wow, way to go. I guess I might as well tell you, I got the Rasmuson too.’ (Laughs). And then I get a call from Nick…the funny thing was Nick, he didn’t get anything , he didn’t get a call, you know, ‘I guess I didn’t get mine.'”

Nicholas got his call the next day.

“We all went up to Anchorage and that was really fun…apparently we only go on family vacations when we win awards. ha ha ha.”

Dave and Nicholas each received artist fellowships, an award of $18,000 designed to give mid-career and mature artists the time and money to create.

Jerrod won a project award, which comes with a no-strings-attached cash award up to $7500 for the creation of a specific artwork. Right now he’s figuring out what exactly that will be. Unlike his brother, Jerrod hasn’t pursued a career as an artist full time.

“Last year was the first time I had a full-time job in a long time because I’ve always bounced around so much. I was a land-surveyor. Before that I’ve worked as a shipwright, I’ve worked as a carpenter, I’ve worked as a commercial fisherman.”

Yet his jewelry is on display in Anchorage galleries. And at the Devilfish, the Sitka gallery owned and operated by the Galanin brothers.

“And I’ve always had artwork somewhat in the background. I’d be happy to make the occasional sale.”

But that is changing, says Jerrod.

“I’ve just really been focusing on the gallery and thinking about art projects and experimenting with that.”

With his fellowship grant, Dave says he’s going to increase the scale of his work and shoot for a one-man show somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’ve actually started a full-sized, life-sized chilkat robe out of copper.”

Nicholas is a conceptual artist whose work is shown in galleries and museums around the world. This month the Galanin brothers attended the opening of Nicholas’ current show at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum. After that Nick will head to Japan for another show opening. His Rasmuson award is already partly spent, he said.

“I’ll get new equipment, and I’ll get some new tools and materials and I’ve already started and even finished some new projects in anticipation of getting that…check.”

While they pursue their current projects separately, it’s clear the Galanins collaborate well together. Here’s Jerrod again,

“I work with Nick a lot..Nick’s my neighbor…late at night we’ll just stay up and brainstorm and talk about art and just do different projects…we both hunt sea otter and we both want to do the fish skin, so that really excites me, just being able to work with my brother.”

And thanks to these arts grants, the Galanins can do that more often.

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