Arts council tries to put salmon (and Denali) on your plate

The Alaska State Council for the Arts is offering salmon on a plate.

It’s also offering the aurora, a raven and Denali. All are among the five options in a contest to determine a new license plate. Voting is open online through Oct. 31 at

“License plates, if you think about it, are little canvases, really, for imagery and art. It seems exciting to be able to make them very much a canvas of the people, both submitting, proposing designs and voting which design best represents the spirit of the state,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

Kreiss-Tomkins, who goes by the nickname JKT, was the sponsor of legislation that created the license plate contest. The plate selected by voters will not replace Alaska’s default license plates; it will be a new license plate sold on behalf of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, just as other license plates benefit firefighters and charitable causes.

“It’s a project that’s really innovative. We’re taking a different approach to involve different people in the state and try to reach everyone who’s eligible to vote,” said Andrea Noble-Plant, the director of the state council.

More than 15,000 votes have already been submitted among the five finalists. One hundred and forty-two submissions were offered to a jury whose votes narrowed the field to five.

Alongside Kreiss-Tomkins, Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, was a member of the jury and said she followed a simple criteria for narrowing the selections: “Timeless designs that would always be relevant to all Alaskans. Examine the cultural, visual, historical and economic relevance of the designs and chose accordingly. Look for narratives in designs. Ideal plate doesn’t try to sell Alaska to the outside; but rather trying to communicate something all Alaskans would intrinsically understand.”

Musher Aliy Zirkle, artist Ray Troll, musician and entrepreneur Phillip Blanchett, First Lady Donna Walker and author Roy Aglolnga were other jurors.

So was Juneau artist Pat Race.

“I was mostly looking for something that spoke to our identity, our unique identity as Alaskans, and it’s hard to tell you something until you see it,” he said.

Submissions came from schools and individual artists across the state.

The selected design will last for four years, and after that period, the arts council will hold a new contest to select another design. The end result may be a kalidoscope of different designs.

“I want to be 20-30-40 years down the road and see a bunch of weird arts license plates on people’s cars. I think that would be pretty cool,” Race said.

Voting is free and open to Alaska residents. The program is intended to be revenue-neutral at worst (an additional fee charged to plate buyers will cover costs), and anything extra will go to the arts council.

“I hope it helps,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

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