Friendly reminder for all Alaska artists: Deadline to apply for a 2022 Individual Artist Award (IAA) is March 1. These are competitive awards, so give yourself time to craft a top-notch application. We recently caught up with two-time recipient TJ Sgwaayaans Young, who shared what has influenced and helped him as an artist.

TJ Sgwaayaans Young received an Individual Artist Award Fellowship in 2015 and a Project Award in 2020. (Photo courtesy of TJ Young)

Name: TJ Sgwaayaans Young
IAA disciplines: Visual arts/sculpture; folk and traditional arts
IAA career stage: Mid-career
Awards: Project award in 2020 and Fellowship in 2015

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as an artist?
To work at my art like it was my job. In the sense of developing a strong work habit, becoming disciplined and focused to produce my art.

Who is your favorite Alaska artist and what do you admire about that person?
Robert Davidson, who was born in my hometown of Hydaburg. I grew up reading his books and studying his art. Later on, I had the privilege of apprenticing under him.

What is the happiest moment of your life as an artist?
One of the happiest moments in my life as an artist was raising my first totem pole. My brother and I had spent the summer carving an Eagle/Beaver totem pole, which honored my late grandmother and was raised for my grandfather’s 90th birthday.

What impact did the Individual Artist Award have on your art?
It had been a desire of mine to learn about traditional Haida weaponry and tools. This award afforded me the opportunity to gain more knowledge and focus on a particular project. I was able spend time studying, as well as observe and photograph an old artifact, and take approximate dimensions, to assist me in replicating a traditional Haida bow.

Artist TJ Sgwaayaans Young carved this pair of 18-foot tall totem poles for installation in 2016 in the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of TJ Young)

This butterfly transformation panel was created by artist TJ Sgwaayaans Young in 2019. He carved the 3-foot piece from red cedar. (Photo courtesy TJ Young)

Artists, you have a few weeks left to apply for a 2022 award! If you want it checked for completeness, submit by Feb. 14. Check out our toolkit, videos with tips and more at