Alumni at Work
Direct Support Professional I, Arc of Anchorage
In 2017, Jessi Saiki was enrolled as pre-Bachelor of Fine Arts Major at UAA. She was also working in UAA’s office of New Student Recruitment as a student ambassador.
Steven Godfrey, a Professor of Art in Ceramics at UAA who was also Jessi’s advisor, had received word that The Arc of Anchorage was looking for student interns at their art studio on D Street, called “Sparc.” The Arc of Anchorage is a nonprofit organization whose mission is: “To encourage and celebrate the potential of people who experience disabilities.” Sparc is a gallery and studio space that celebrates self-expression and individuality while encouraging social enterprise. This program is involved with the art community by collaborating with other galleries, artists and retail spaces. With her expertise in ceramics and painting, as well as her experience as a new student ambassador, Professor Godfrey knew that Jessi would be the right person for this position. Jessi became an intern at Sparc, assisting individuals as they learned to express themselves through hand built ceramics.
During her senior year, Jessi completed artwork for her BFA thesis exhibition that was on display in the Kimura Gallery in the Fine Arts Building. The pieces were 3D hand built ceramic interpretations of drawings that she made in her journal. This process helped her tell stories about her life after experiencing a traumatic brain injury.
After receiving her BFA degree in the spring of 2019, Jessi was hired as a Direct Support Professional I at Sparc, in which she leads ceramic classes. Jessi says that, “The mentorship I received at UAA helped me express myself more clearly in my creative life. I have become stronger conceptually and developed a wide range of techniques. I was also surrounded by a creative community that supported me in my journey of creating art about mental health. This in combination with learning communication skills as a student ambassador prepared me for my job at Sparc. My plan is to continue my education at UAA and work towards a Masters Degree in Social Work with a focus on Art Therapy.”
Dinnerware created for Jenggala Keramic, Bali Indonesia
Vessels created while studying at Rochester Institute of Technology
Post Baccalaureate Student, Rochester Institute of Technology
In 2017, Lukas Easton received his BFA degree from UAA which culminated in an exhibition
of his thesis work in the Kimura Gallery entitled, “Visceral Visions”. A series of
large-scale vessels with carved narrative depicting the depravities of war, politics,
and society. Lukas was awarded a UAA Undergraduate Research Grant which he used to
purchase tools and supplies needed to complete his thesis. Lukas presented a lecture
about his work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in April 2017.
In the fall of 2017, following a summer of commercial fishing in Homer, Lukas began studying as a post-baccalaureate student in ceramics at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He had the opportunity to be mentored by Peter Pincus and Jane Shellenbarger, two highly esteemed professors in the ceramic field. While there, he reconnected with a former UAA ceramic student, Ade Waworuntu, who owns Jenggala Keramic, a large-scale ceramic production company in Bali, Indonesia. Ade invited Lukas to come to Jenggala to continue his research and design a set of dinnerware for her company. His designs will be launched Indonesia in May and will be featured at a hotel supply vendor exposition in Dubai, UAE in September.
In 2019, Lukas was accepted as a graduate student at the Alfred School of Art and Design, a prestigious ceramic art and engineering program in western New York where he will continue to develop his artistic practice.
“My time at UAA has been invaluable to me as my career develops. UAA gave me a space to take on the impossible, and the support and push to make it happen. That time taught me I was capable of more than I ever knew. The program held me to an unwavering high standard and has done an amazing job of sending me out into the world with a well-rounded knowledge of my field and a standard of excellence that is unmatched.”
Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Danielle Larsen, an artist of Unangax̂ Aleut, Koyukon Athabascan, Inupiaq and European
ancestry, made a life changing decision in 2010 to return to UAA and pursue a Bachelor
of Fine Arts degree. Her father John “Jackie” Larsen died in October of that year.
His sudden passing brought Danielle to a place of self-reflection about her life and
choices. She knew that going back to school would direct her to what she truly wanted
to do which was to be an artist. While in college, Danielle began making paintings
that were rooted in her Alaska Native culture and her memories of her family, especially
her father. “I found comfort in painting images of my father’s jars of kippered smoked
salmon. It made me feel more closely connected to his spirit”. Danielle’s professor,
Alvin Amason saw so much potential in this work and encouraged her in that direction.
Eventually Danielle completed her thesis exhibition which consisted of several large
scale colorful works that were displayed in the Kimura Gallery.
Since graduating, Danielle has been learning the cultural tradition of seal gut sewing from Mary Tunchuk, Elaine Kingeekuk, and Sonya Kelliher-Combs. She has a strong connection to the history of seal hunting as her grandfather, John Larson, came to the Pribiliof islands to harvest fur seals. There, he met his future wife(Danielle’s grandmother), Agnia Tetoff. Danielle says of her latest work, “The long history of seal harvest, where every part of the seal is used to make food, clothes, buoys, and art, informs my current artwork. I have continued this tradition by learning how to prepare seal gut for use in my artwork. I did not learn to use gut from my family but believe that it was my ancestors guiding me to the opportunities to learn traditional ways.”
Danielle’s life as an artist has been very busy with many opportunities. She has taught at an Unangax̂ (Aleut) Culture Camp, exhibited her work at the Sevigney Gallery and AFN conferences, and was recognized at the Emerging Designer Showcase at Design week at the Anchorage Museum.
Most recently, she was hired as Graphic Designer and Illustrator at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Her job at ANHTC and being a studio artist allows for her to communicate with her work on many levels. “I hope my work inspires and influences the next generation to learn to further embrace our rich and diverse cultural heritage and continue to share it with the world.”