Beth Weigel, Director of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, gives an overview of the newly announced Marie Darlin Prize during a meeting of the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Beth Weigel, Director of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, gives an overview of the newly announced Marie Darlin Prize during a meeting of the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

New prize will continue lifetime of advocacy

Nominations are now being accepted.

A new $5,000 prize is continuing the legacy of two Juneauites.

The Marie Darlin Prize is named in honor of a lifelong Juneauite, who passed in 2018, and it is the brainchild of longtime museum volunteer and Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum board member Mike Blackwell, who died in January.

“We are just ecstatic about the fact Mike Blackwell had the vision to do this prize,” said Sue Nielsen, Darlin’s daughter in a phone interview. “She would be completely humbled by this.”

The prize is a collaboration among the city museum, the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and the Juneau Community Foundation.

Beth Weigel, Director for the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, described Darlin as a dedicated historian, community watchdog and advocate for senior citizens.

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Nielsen said it was her mother’s staunch advocacy on behalf of the AARP and Alaska Commission on Aging that earned her the nickname “The Velvet Hammer.”

“Marie was a very involved person,” Weigel said. “She’s the epitome of what you’d think of as a true pioneer.”

The prize is open to writers, visual artists, performing artists or scholars who have completed a significant work that emphasizes community values and regional identity concerning the cultures and peoples of Southeast Alaska, the Yukon or northern British Columbia, according to the City and Borough of Juneau.

Nielsen said her mother was a supporter of the arts and would have appreciated the award’s focus.

Accepting nominations

Nominees must have completed work of enduring value that has been published by a notable press, featured in a solo or group exhibition, or performed at a significant venue within the past five years.

“It’s not particularly a prize for someone who is a new writer or a new artist,” Weigel said.

Nominations for the award are now being accepted. Nominations are due by April 3, which was Darlin’s birthday.

Nominations require a letter addressed to the Marie Darlin Prize Committee detailing how the nominee’s work expresses a commitment to women’s rights, community, senior advocacy or indigenous or regional identity in Southeast Alaska, the Yukon or northern British Columbia; letters of support from community members or organizations who have been inspired or benefited from the nominee’s work; a two-page resume that highlights the nominee’s accomplishments.

Nominations can be sent by mail, electronically or in PDF format to Marie Darlin Prize Nomination, Juneau-Douglas City Museum, 114 W. Fourth St., Juneau, AK 99801; or museum.info@juneau.org with the subject line Marie Darlin Prize Nomination and the salutation “Members of the Marie Darlin Prize Committee.”

$5,000 cash prize

Weigel said a prize winner will be announced in mid-September. So far, she said, there have been no nominations, but people do seem interested in the prize.

“It’s certainly creating a little bit of buzz,” Weigel said.

She said a lot of that is tied to the $5,000 cash prize that the winner will receive, since Weigel said it’s a relatively large sum of money for a local award.

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For comparison, Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Project Awards come with a $7,500 prize.

Nielsen said she was appreciative of the significant work the prize could potentially fund.

“We’re just astounded by the amount of the prize,” Nielsen said. “They’ll really be able to do something significant with that.”

Award recipients will also be recognized at an annual event, receive a commemorative gift, have their names added to a commemorative plaque on permanent display at the museum, have a profile posted next to the plaque for one year and permanently posted to the city museum and community foundation websites and be considered for future membership on the committee.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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