Fifty years of artistic endeavor are being recognized with a prestigious award and sizable monetary prize.
Tlingit master carver Wayne Price, who is an associate professor of Northwest Coast arts for University of Alaska Southeast, is this year’s winner of the Rasmuson Foundation’s Distinguished Artist Award. The annual award recognizes lifetime achievement in the arts and comes with $40,000.
“I’m very honored to have received such a prestigious award and to be recognized as an artist for the work that I do and the art that I do,” Price said in a phone interview. “What a great honor. It’s a good testament to the art that has never let my people down.”
Price said the honor came as a total surprise.
“It came with a phone call, and it knocked me off the chair,” Price said. “I had no idea, actually, and a wonderful surprise it was. I’ve heard of other people receiving it, but I had no idea I was a candidate.”
He thanked his wife, Cherri, for her support and the Rasmuson Foundation for the recognition and financial support.
Price, 62, said he began carving when he was 12 years old. In the past he has been open about the healing role art has played in his life and how it helped him in his recovery journey and to maintain sobriety.
He has spread that healing message over the years with multiple healing totem poles and dugout canoes that have addressed topics including boarding school atrocities committed against Alaska Natives, misuse of alcohol and drugs and gender-based violence.
“It’s been there through all the hard times,” Price said of art. “And we’re going to get through this hard time as well.”
Some of his most visible works include totem poles at Thunder Mountain High School and Tlingit & Haida Vocational Technical School, house posts for the U.S. Forest Service building in Auke Bay, items in the collections of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage and Denali National Park Visitor Center, etched formline glass panels in downtown Juneau and traditional texture adzing on clan house walls at the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff building.
“Wayne Price represents the best of Alaska art and artist,” said Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson Foundation president and CEO in a release. “He’s preserved and replicated traditional Tlingit art with remarkable attention to detail. He creates his own designs in mediums from cedar to silver. And he is a mentor to the young, teaching ways to sobriety and good health. Build a canoe with Wayne and you’ll not only learn to carve, your life will be forever changed. We are so proud to honor Wayne.”
Price, who is currently in Haines where he grew up, said he continues to work as both an artist and academic instructor despite being stuck in one place as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“I have some paddles I’m working on,” Price said. “I’m also in pics and texts with all my students of this past semester. I may be here, but I’m still very involved with everybody’s projects.”
Price said he intends to continue teaching and working.
“Oh yes,” he said. “It’s the artwork that got me here. It’s the artwork that I love. I’m going to continue doing it, and I’m going to continue to teach.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt