Juneau artists Taylor Dallas Vidic and David “Lou” Logan are among 35 other Alaskan artists to recently be awarded Individual Artist Awards through the Rasmuson Foundation.
“I feel 100% like a product of my environment, that environment being Juneau,” Vidic said.
Awardees included three groups along with bringing back a special President’s Award for the second time in the Foundation’s history, which was awarded to self-taught Spenardian artist Duke Russell.
Rasmuson Foundation Program Officer Enzina Marrari has been with the foundation for four years and manages the Individual Artist Award program. Serving as a program officer and also being a previous IAA recipient, she knows a lot about the process from both perspectives.
“I think what’s so special about the individual artist awards is that this is really an award that supports artists and makers and practitioners,” Marrari said. “Often we see these works of art, we listen to music, we watch films, we hold a lovely crafted mug or bowl, but we don’t often make the connection of the person behind that, so I just want to emphasize how important it is to support individual artists in their craft. This program is so unique in that it is putting money back directly into individual artists, which adjacently invests in arts and culture in Alaska as a whole.”
The honors include 10 $18,000 Fellowships and 25 Project Awards of $7,500. The artists were selected from a pool of 230 applicants by a national panel of artists and creative community leaders from outside of Alaska. Fellowships are awarded to mid-career artists looking for a year of intensely focused attention on developing a creative project, while the Project Awards support artists at all career stages for specific, short-term works.
The 2022 artist awardees represent 15 communities stretching across Alaska: Akiak, Anchorage, Eagle River, Fairbanks, Healy, Homer, Hope, Juneau, Kaktovik, Larsen Bay, Palmer, Sitka, Soldotna, Talkeetna and Utqiaġvik. Vidic along with Logan were the only two recipients this year to be chosen from Juneau.
Soundtrack of her Southeast life
Vidic will be compiling songs she’s collected from over a decade that share the stories of her Southeast Alaska young adulthood, along with recent travels and use them to record her first full-length album, a process that Vidic admits is somewhat scary for her, but she said if she wants to play music outside of Alaska, she’ll need a physical representation to do so.
“I like writing songs about love or almost love; that’s at least where I find a lot of my songs land,” Vidic said. “It will be an album of songs written about various people or experiences that I’ve had engaging in a love life in southeast Alaska where you’re bound to run into your ex for the rest of your life, your parents are going to be friends even after you break up.”
Vidic said she’s a very nostalgic person and as a result of that, the album is going to be a lot about the idea of continuing to care about people long after relationships find their end and what that looks and feels like. Vidic added that traveling will also be a thread throughout.
“The traveling component is being someone from a small town and going to a big city,” Vidic said. “I have a couple of songs based in New York and what it’s like to be suddenly surrounded by so many people that could be your person, just the experience of that, feeling the possibility for relationships be they romantic or otherwise, there’s just so many people in the world.”
“It’s going to involve a lot of research because it’s such a process that involves so many pieces and steps,” Vidic said. “It feels like taking a master class, it’s really going to be like a massive class project; I don’t have just one set teacher, so I’m going to be asking for a lot of advice.”
Vidic said it’s incredibly validating to have an outside source such as the foundation that doesn’t know her personally acknowledge what she’s been doing and for believing in what she can do by providing a little something to help her along on that journey. Vidic attributes much of her success to the endless amount of support she’s experienced throughout her life while growing up in Juneau.
“The support that I’ve received and continue to receive, be it Mary DeSmet, my piano teacher, or Richard Moore and Missouri Smyth, who were my choir teachers, it’s something I don’t take lightly,” Vidic said. “And also my dingdang parents, Ray and Sheri Vidic, who still come to every single one of my shows and sit there smitten. I always make the joke that it ruins my street cred of having my parents at my shows, but they give me everything.”
Building his first Iñupiaq skin-on-frame qayaq (kayak)
Logan intends to use his project of building his first Iñupiaq skin-on-frame qayaq as a way of expanding his knowledge of traditional types and allow him to learn more about his Iñupiaq heritage. His long-term goal is to teach traditional Iñupiaq qayaq building to others.
Logan said the inspiration behind building an Iñupiaq skin-on-frame qayaq began more than a decade ago when he saw some old kayaks in the Alaska State Museum. Seeing the kayaks combined his interests of working with natural materials, being on the water, and learning more about the Iñupiaq side of his family, which he said he knows very little about.
“My grandmother is from Wales, Alaska, and passed away this year,” Logan said. “She never wanted to talk about her past, culture, or family. When I asked she would be very reluctant and quickly change the subject. The past was too painful for her. Building a qayaq is my way of learning about my Native culture.”
In 2019 Logan attended a five-day iqyax̂ (Unangan kayak) building workshop at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage taught by Marc Daniels. Prior to the class, Logan said he didn’t feel he had the skills or knowledge to do it in a way that was respectful to the kayak building heritage of Alaska, however, the workshop gave him the motivation and confidence to begin researching and building his own iqyax̂, which he completed in 2020. Logan said it’s unlike any kayak he’s ever paddled because you can see the water through the skin and feel each wave as it passes underneath.
While this wasn’t his first time applying for the project award, Logan said that to be among this year’s recipients was unexpected. Logan said he’s grateful to the Rasmuson Foundation for allowing him the opportunity to carry on generational practices that have nearly been lost over time.
“There are fewer resources for Iñupiaq qayaqs compared to some other types,” Logan said. “The techniques learned over generations were passed down in oral tradition. This knowledge was almost entirely lost due to cultural loss and assimilation. The qayaq itself is now the teacher. The award will help pay for travel to research historical qayaqs, tools, and materials. Much will go towards workspace rental since I don’t recommend foolishly building a kayak in a bedroom like I did. I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Rasmuson Foundation, and someday I would like to pass on what I learn to others.”