Sustained Funding of Museums Supports Vibrant Arts Culture in Alaska

January 16, 2020


Trends in Northwest Giving began as a project of Philanthropy Northwest in 2002 and has been published every two years as an aggregation and analysis of grantmaking trends that shape our region — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Much of our sector’s growth, as well as the deep roots that strengthen our communities, is reflected throughout each report. Data alone doesn’t capture the human impact of philanthropy. That’s why this year, we’ve added regional spotlights to help capture the changemakers behind the grants. This article is first in the series and features Alaska and funding the arts.

Spotlight on Alaska

Grantmaking increased by 12% between 2014 and 2016 in Alaska. Education and arts and culture topped funders’ priority lists in Alaska at 25% and 18% of total grant dollars, respectively. One significant example of funding the arts comes from the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation, which awarded a $420,000 grant in 2016 to Museums Alaska, the state association of museums and cultural centers that works to build capacity and support outreach and education among its members. The grant continued Rasmuson Foundation and Museum Alaska’s partnership that began in 2003 to help museums and cultural centers acquire art by currently practicing, Alaska-based artists as well as to support museum professionals in managing their collections.

From 2003-2016, Rasmuson Foundation distributed nearly $3 million in grants to 33 museums. In total, the grants have helped purchase more than 1,100 individual works of art by about 500 Alaska artists. Since the collection program’s inception in 2013 through 2016, a total of $400,000 went to museums for collection management projects.

“For many Alaska museums and cultural centers, acquiring art or undertaking small collection projects would likely not be possible without these funds. The art acquisition fund can increase an artist’s visibility and lead to other opportunities. Over the long term, these mechanisms preserve art for future generations to enjoy,” said Sharity Sommer, a program officer at Rasmuson Foundation.

Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan stated: “Artists help us examine the human condition which is demonstrated through creative expression in the form of visual and performing arts, cultural traditions, literary arts and media. Artists help interpret complex phenomena or simply convey the great beauty that surrounds us in our natural world. We hope the Art Acquisition Fund has made a difference for artists and museums in the state, and that we are further along in creating an important and invaluable permanent collection of contemporary artwork for Alaskans.”

For more information about giving trends in Alaska, other states or the Pacific Northwest overall, please check out the full report online.