The Alaska Humanities Forum has paired up with artist Sarah Davies to give an Alaskan a $10,000 opportunity. The grant is geared specifically toward those who have a creative concept that focuses on homelessness.
Davies and her 100Stone project was the inspiration for this grant. 100Stone was a storytelling project that incorporated casting of 100 figures of those around Alaska who had been affected by mental illness to illuminate human vulnerability.
The Anchorage Park Foundation and the Light Brigade awarded Davies $15,000 so she could bring her vision into fruition.
“Initially this started as an effort to pay forward the opportunity I was given…” Davies said.
“Without the invitation to pursue that project, I wouldn’t have even had the motivation to think of this project. I really wanted to pay forward that opportunity.”
For the Human:ties grant to come to life, 100Stone was necessary in more than just its inspiration to Davies. After receiving the blessing from both the makers and the models involved in 100Stone, Davies made the decision to sell the remaining figures which she calls ‘stones’ from her project. The money earned contributed to the makings of Human:ties.
“A lot of people were interested in the stones themselves and what would happen to them, that’s what originally gave me the idea for (Humanities),” Davies said. The Alaska Humanities Forum, after hearing Davies’ idea, matched what money was earned from the sale of the stones to go toward the making of the new grant. The Alaska Humanities Forum had already been looking for the opportunity to develop a program that had a more direct impact on the community and was connected to the idea of strengthening community.
“When Sarah came to us we were inspired by her passion,” Megan Zlatos, Director of Grants and Special Projects with the Alaska Humanities Forum said.
The genesis for Humanities began in September of last year with the sale of the stones. What both the Humanities Forum and Davies decided the grant should focus on was the present and pressing issue of homelessness throughout Alaskan communities.
Although there have been numerous community presentations that have occurred all over the state, such as the Alaska Coalition to End Homelessness, it was jointly decided that there is more needed to be done.
“I’ve been attending a lot of the meetings and conversations and they focus on what we are doing, the statistics, and what solutions that are out there. Those are all incredibly important conversations that are happening right now. But the conversations I don’t see happening are those that get more at the underlying cause of who we are as community and what it means to us when there are so many people here that are going through this kind of experience. And I think that there is an opportunity for art, for any number of things that could come out of this grant, for that to provoke us to see our community in a new way,” Zlatos said. “We need to be thinking that homelessness is not someone else’s problem to solve, but looking at ourselves as a community and seeing a vision for something better.” The Humanities Forum and Davies agree with Rodney Gaskins who is the executive director of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. He said in a Forum magazine article that, “people don’t become homeless when they lose a house, or when they run out of money; they become homeless when they run out of relationships.”
Combating isolation is this grant’s goal. Because of this, the Alaskan Humanities Forum has left the application as open and available as possible. What they are ultimately looking for is someone to come up with a process that engages the community in combating isolation that creates a final artistic product. The end product could range from sculptural work, such as Davies’ finished product, to a manuscript, or a performance; there are unlimited possibilities. The only other requirement is that the process and product be based out of Alaska.
“We’re being as open minded as possible so we can encourage as many people and visions to apply,” Zlatos said.
Although many grants require the applicant to have their project worked out from beginning to end, this grant gives those who may only have an initial seed of an idea the chance to bring that to the table and be seriously considered. Applications for the grant are available online at https://www.akhf.org/humanties-grants. There are also some hard copies available in the Alaska Humanities Forum office in Anchorage as well as in the Anchorage library in an effort to make them available to those who may not have access to computers. The deadline to submit an application is Aug. 31. Anyone who may have further questions should reach out to Zlatos by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One of the things that Sarah said is so critical was how with her project with 100Stone the application for the parks system was really open and didn’t require her to think it all the way through, if she had had to pull this all together from the very beginning she would have been scared off and she would have come up with something far smaller and less meaningful than what she ultimately did. Her project developed all along the way,” Zlatos said. “We are thinking about our own application process with that in mind. We want this to develop organically as the person is engaging with the community.”
Davies will be a part of the selection committee and encourages those who may not consider themselves artists with the knowledge that she would have never considered herself an artist before her experience with 100Stone.
Also, they are prepared to support the applicants’ efforts, to build sponsorships, and that they have resources ready for anyone who has a vision for a project that addresses homelessness. A project that focuses on connecting people to each other that brings to light the issue of isolation.
“If I don’t feel connected to my community I don’t feel well or right or whole. This is my selfish effort to stay as closely woven to my statewide community because it’s what makes me feel alive,” Davies said. “Ever since I was a little girl I was motivated to help people who needed help. Now I have resourses to offer. And that is what I will continue to do.”
• Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.