The Alutiiq Museum is launching its Alutiiq Arts Advocacy project following an award of $18,589 from the Alaska Community Foundation’s Alaska Native Social Justice Fund, according to an Alutiiq Museum press release.
Through its collaboration with Alaska Native artists, the museum realized a need in the community for help marketing artists’ work, Lee said.
The museum works with 80 artists, selling their work at the Alutiiq Museum store on consignment, earning 75% of the item’s sale price, said Marlise Lee, gallery coordinator at the museum.
“Many talented Native artists have limited access to information on marketing or the basic materials needed to promote and sell their work — information that can help them earn a meaningful wage,” said April Counceller, the museum’s executive director.
With the range of Alutiiq art created in Kodiak — masks and paddles, traditional and modern jewelry, Alutiiq-style baskets and and traditional fur products — artists’ needs will be varied.
“This project will take an individualized approach to developing marketing materials for artists,” Counceller said. “Some people need professional photographs of their work. Others want business cards or a basic website. Still others would like help developing an application to participate in a workshop, attend a class, or apply for an award.”
Local Alaska Native artist Trisha Abston-Cox, whose own marketing needs acted as the pilot program for the arts advocacy project, approached the Alutiiq Museum for help photographing her beaded Alutiiq ceremonial headdresses for a beading magazine.
Abston-Cox, who learned to make ceremonial headdresses from elders, said one headdress takes about 80 hours and 6,000 beads.
“I went and talked to (Lee). She was very open and thoughtful. She has photographed 20 of my headdresses,” Abston-Cox said. “My only barrier (as an artist) was for my work to be seen.”
Lee also helped Abston-Cox create an online gallery of her headdresses, and the museum’s executive director and chief curator co-wrote an article about ceremonial Alutiiq headdresses to accompany her art in the magazine.
After her artwork and the article were published, Abston-Cox said she received requests for her headdresses.
In addition to assisting individual Alaska Native artists, the museum will make improvements to its store with new signage, enhanced product labels, and rack cards introducing artists represented in the store’s inventory. A media campaign about the value of purchasing authentic Native artwork is also planned, according to the press release.
“By educating people with some of the pamphlets and signage that we will be doing, it will help them see the value and why that money is important to go to the Native artists,” Lee said.
The museum is looking for Native artists to apply for the arts advocacy project. They will select 10 artists, she said.
In addition to help marketing their art, participants will be able to take part in educational webinars and be showcased on a new artist gallery on the museum’s website.
This grant will fund one year of this program, though Counceller said she hopes to expand the program.
“This first year will help us learn more about how the museum can help the arts community,” Counceller said in the press release. “Ultimately, we would like this sort of support to be part of our regular services. When artists are successful at selling their work, they can focus on perpetuating and sharing traditions, which is the museum’s mission as well.”
Potential participants should contact Lee, according to the press release.