Stephen Blanchett is the new Director of Education for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. (Michael Penn | Capital City Weekly)

Stephen Blanchett is the new Director of Education for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. (Michael Penn | Capital City Weekly)

Award-winning artist eager to get more artists in Juneau classrooms

A Q&A with Juneau Arts Humanities Council’s new education director

Stephen Blanchett is new to Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, but he’s no stranger to Juneau.

Before being hired as the JAHC’s new education director, Blanchett, who is an award-winning artist and performer, told the Juneau Empire he had done about 70 residencies in 50 communities, including residencies teaching Yup’ik dance in Juneau.

“It’s been a huge part of my life,” Blanchett said in an interview. “I’ve been sitting on the teaching side, but now I’m inspiring and mentoring folks to do it.”

[JAHC announces new education director]

Previously Blanchett worked as the Vice President of Development and Community engagement for the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and he said he’s excited to lead programs including oversee programs including Artists in the Schools, Partners in Education, Any Given Child, Artful Teaching, Poetry Out Loud and the after school ArtShops program at Cedar Park and Geneva Woods.

“What really hit the nail on the head for me, and it was like, ‘This is the job,’ is the Artists in Schools program,” Blanchett told the Juneau Empire. “I’ve been a teaching artist for almost 30 years now. I absolutely love working with the youth and teaching.”

The importance of exposure to art at a young age is something Blanchett experienced first-hand while growing up in Bethel.

“Growing up, dancing at that time, when I was a kid, was just starting to come back,” Blanchett said. “Due to colonization and the church and all that it had been forbidden to dance, so back in the ’70s when I was a kid, it was just starting to come back, and you only ever really saw older people doing it. So I think that background and seeing that it wasn’t really being transferred to young people, I thought that was a huge need that needed to be filled.”

Blanchett took time Thursday to talk to the Capital City Weekly about what he hopes to do as education director and why he suspects Juneau will be good for his art.

What attracted you to this position?

For me, the Humanities Council is really the only organization I’ve engaged with. Coming here in the past, they’ve presented my band before. I’ve known Nancy (DeCherney) and the crew there for quite some time through concerts that we’ve done in the past. I really love the council. It’s so arts-focused, especially communitywide, and that was very attractive for me.

[Artful Teaching integrates artistic concepts into old-school subjects]

I know it’s just getting started, but do you have any specific goals for what you’re hoping to get done?

My No. 1 goal is to increase the roster of teaching artists. The roster here for teaching artists is very, very small (about 20 artists), and I feel like every other person … are you an artist?

If you count writing.

Yeah, absolutely. Every other person I’ve been meeting here in Juneau in the week and a half I’ve been here is an actor, a writer, a dancer, a singer, musician. I’ve been meeting so many artistic people here, but that roster of folks that actually go and teach in the schools and universities is very small. That’s my first goal is get the message out to artists that they too have something to share with these young people.

So that’s No. 1 with a bullet, any other goals?

I would say as a secondary goal is to get the schools and the teachers confident to use arts in their curriculum. A lot of teachers expressed that they know how to grade a research paper, but how do you grade, say a graphic novel or a piece of art. Getting teachers and administrators more comfortable, that’s a secondary thing.

Do you intend to create and perform while you’re here in Juneau?

In my previous position, I had no time. My work at the center pretty much stopped a lot of the creative part of it. I was still able to perform here and there but not the creation of new things. Here, I feel I’m in this place that’s so beautiful that I feel that I’m going to be inspired to create. Recently, I was awarded two fellowships (from the Rasmuson Foundation and Dance USA) to kind of allow me to create that space for myself — the process of music, of dance compositions and working with mask dancing. There’s a lot to this job though, so I’m hoping that there’s time.

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 6

Here’s what to expect this week.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 10, 2024

For Wednesday, July 10 Attempt to Serve At 10:06 a.m. on Wednesday,… Continue reading

Commercial fishing boats are lined up at the dock at Seward’s harbor on June 22. Federal grants totaling a bit over $5 million have been awarded to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to help Alaskans sell more fish to more diverse groups of consumers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Federal grants to state agency aim to expand markets for Alaska seafood

More than $5M to help ASMI comes after Gov. Dunleavy vetoed $10M for agency.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds up the omnibus crime bill, House Bill 66, after signing it at a ceremony Thursday at the Department of Public Safety’s aircraft hangar at Lake Hood in Anchorage. At his side are Sandy Snodgrass, whose 22-year-old son died in 2021 from a fentanyl overdose, and Angela Harris, who was stabbed in 2022 by a mentally disturbed man at the public library in Anchorage and injured so badly that she now uses a wheelchair. Snodgrass and Harris advocated for provisions in the bill.Behind them are legislators, law enforcement officers and others. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Goals for new Alaska crime law range from harsher penalties for drug dealers to reducing recidivism

Some celebrate major progress on state’s thorniest crime issues while others criticize the methods.

Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen (left) and Vice President Emil Mackey, holding his son Emil Mackey IV, listen to discussion about next year’s budget for the school district during a meeting March 14 at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. Recall votes for both board members were certified this week for the Oct. 1 municipal election ballot. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Petitions to recall two Juneau school board leaders get enough signatures for Oct. 1 election ballot

President Deedie Sorensen, Vice President Emil Mackey targeted due to school district’s budget crisis.

Most Read