Vibrant Arts & Culture

Art has the power to connect us

When arts and culture flourish, so do entire communities. A major focus of our work supports individual artists, museums and cultural centers, touring exhibits and performances, the arts in schools, and much more. Alaska artists help shape our identity, shining a light on what might otherwise be hard to see. By supporting the arts, we improve people’s quality of life through diverse and vibrant cultures. 

662Grants to individual artists and groups, 2004 to 2023.
60Museums and cultural centers improved, since 1955.
$119 millionIn grants for arts, artists, makers and culture bearers, since 1955

Decades of support for the arts

Our commitment to the arts builds on the Rasmuson family’s long history of support. Elmer Rasmuson believed that a great museum was essential to a full civic life. Elmer and his wife, Mary Louise, were founding benefactors of the world-class Anchorage Museum.

In 2003, the Foundation launched a $20 million, 10-year Arts and Culture Initiative that sought to strengthen every aspect of the arts in Alaska. Programs arose that now are embedded in our DNA, including our signature Individual Artist Awards and a partnership that supports museums collecting the work of living Alaska artists. Nearly a quarter of our total grantmaking supports arts and culture, more than $120 million all told as of mid-2023.

Gail Jackson, a performing artist and facilitator with a passion for the sound of gongs, is a two-time Individual Artist Award recipient.

Additional impact areas

Grants for Alaska artists

We believe the best way to support arts and culture in Alaska is to fund artists, makers and culture bearers directly. We began the Individual Artist Awards in 2004 and continue to manage a highly competitive program that recognizes individual artists and makers as well as groups and collaboratives. In addition to grants, awardees are celebrated, promoted and offered professional development tailored for Alaskans. As of 2023, we’ve given 662 IAA grants totaling more than $6.5 million.

Building collections

Since 2003, we have partnered with Museums Alaska to support museums, cultural centers and other nonprofit organizations in buying the work of living Alaska artists. Many of these pieces are available to loan to nonprofits in the state, and the Foundation has a rotating collection in our office.

Museums and cultural centers

Around Alaska, we help museums and cultural centers grow and modernize, not only to improve displays but also to engage with their communities more actively. Our largest single grant was $12 million in 2015 for a new wing at the Anchorage Museum. We also support cultural centers that share histories, cultures and lived experiences of diverse communities with visitors and also ensure a place of pride and healing to those whose cultures have been under threat. A leader in this work is Anchorage-based Alaska Native Heritage Center, named a Cultural Treasure in 2020 by the Ford Foundation. 

Documentary films

A close partner, Alaska Humanities Forum, leads work on our ongoing documentary series, “Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character.” The films explore the lives of Alaskans whose actions and ideas helped to shape the spirit, history and values of our state. See finished films here. Let us know if there is someone you think should be featured. Note: They must be living at the time the film is made, and their impact must have been significant.

Touring arts

High quality art experiences reach communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access through this program. Named after two former Rasmuson Foundation board members, Sandy and the late Jerry Harper, the Harper Arts Touring Fund was established in 2002 to encourage tours of performance and visual arts in rural and under-resourced communities. On our partner grants page, learn more about this and other grant opportunities offered through the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

Recognition for Alaskans

We were one of the founding funders of United States Artists, a national organization that awards unrestricted $50,000 artist fellowships. As of 2023, 20 Alaskans have been recipients, more than in all but a handle of other states. A number of Foundation Individual Artist Award recipients have received USA fellowships as have other exceptional Alaska artists, makers and culture bearers.

Individual Artist Awards

We believe the best way to support arts in Alaska is to fund artists, makers and culture bearers directly.

Art Collections

Rasmuson Foundation funds museums and cultural centers to buy art from living Alaska artists, makers and culture bearers. (Pictured: “Fire on the Mountain” by Marianne Manning)

Distinguished Artists

Among our art grants, one stands out: the Distinguished Artist Award. Watch short documentaries, see the artwork and learn more about Alaskans who spent a lifetime creating exceptional art.

Impact Stories

‘Where the sun comes in from all sides’

Sealaska Heritage Institute Arts campus showcases the artistry and cultural heritage of Southeast Alaska.

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Qaspeq Project honors missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Amber Webb calls attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women through her art. She received an Individual Artist Project Award in 2018.

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Lesson from a master: Never weave angry

The most significant turning point in Delores Churchill’s life came in her 40s, when it sunk in that traditional Haida weaving was endangered.

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Power and passion in percussion

Gail Jackson didn’t turn to a gong until she was 52 years old, but music was always intertwined with her life.

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