A common thread unites two Southeast Alaska artists who recently received national recognition and a substantial cash award.
Master weavers Delores Churchill of Ketchikan and Lani Strong Hotch of Klukwan this week were each named USA Fellows by United States Artists. They were the only two artists from Alaska to be chosen for the distinction.
“Delores is one of my teachers,” Strong Hotch said in a phone interview. “She taught me how to weave with cedar bark, so when I applied, I had to submit pictures of my work, which included several cedar bark hats.”
Strong Hotch, who is Tlingit and began weaving as a teenager nearly 50 years ago, credited many of her teachers, including Churchill, for providing the foundation for her art.
She specifically thanked Cheryl Samuel, Jenny Warren, Ruth Kasko, Virginia Rose Hotch, Helen King and Jennie Wheeler.
Churchill is a Haida who learned weaving from her mother, Selina Peratrovich, and later learned other forms of Alaska Native weaving.
“There are many things that happened in my life right at the right time to make sure weaving could continue be taught,” Churchill previously told the Capital City Weekly.
United States Artists is a Chicago-based arts funding organization that provides awards to artists throughout the country. The USA Fellow distinction comes with a $50,000 cash award, according to United States Artists.
“We are so honored to celebrate the artists who are making vital contributions to the country’s creative ecosystem,” said United States Artists President and CEO Deana Haggag in a press release. “It is a critically important time to support the livelihoods of artists and we are ecstatic to be able to honor 50 of them this year.”
Strong Hotch said that award will help her focus more on her art and retire from her day job at the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center, where she was previously the executive director.
“I’m going to set aside a good chunk of it to help with my retirement from my day job — not from art work — then, I’m going to use some of it for raw materials,” Strong Hotch said.
She said it was her third time being nominated for the fellowship and award, and she found out she was among the winners toward the end of summer.
“I was very ecstatic because it was the third time I was nominated for that,” Strong Hotch said.
She aid she had to “keep a lid on” the news until an official announcement was made this week, and it was difficult to keep it under wraps.
“Yes, it was hard,” Strong Hotch said. “I just had to put it out of my mind.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.