Spring 2024 Honorary Degree Award: Alvin Amason

by Michelle Saport  |   

Alvin Amason speaks as he receives the Honorary Degree Award.
Sugpiaq Alaskan painter and sculptor Alvin Amason speaks as he receives an Honorary Degree at the 2024 Spring Commencement Awards ceremony in UAA's Fine Arts Building. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Accomplished artist and educator Alvin Amason (Sugpaiq/Alutiiq) was born and raised in the rural village of Old Harbor on Kodiak Island. He grew up slogging through alder thickets, following his grandfather, bear guide Eli Metrokin, up mountainsides, and hauling in salmon-filled nets as a deckhand. These early experiences and the island's cultural traditions inspire his art.

His numerous roles include faculty positions with the Navajo Nation, Dine' College, University of Great Falls, Montana, University of Alaska and Visual Arts of Center of Alaska. Among his most enduring and impactful roles was serving as director of Native Arts at the University of Alaska Fairbanks,  for 17 years before retiring and moving to Anchorage, where he joined UAA's Department of Art to  develop a new Alaska Native arts curriculum and studio.
Continuing to create and exhibit his artwork, Amason remains influential in the art community. His work has been  exhibited in collections around the world, including the Alutiiq Museum, Anchorage Museum, Institute of American Indian Art and the Boulogne-sur-mer Museum in France. Amason has also participated in international symposiums, sharing his expertise and passion for art.
In 1997, Amason was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nature Conservancy of Alaska. In 2004, he received the Rasmuson Foundation's Individual Artist Fellowship. In 2018, he received the State of Alaska Governor’s Award for Outstanding Visual Artist and the Rasmuson Foundation’s Award for Distinguished Individual Artist. He has participated in several invitational exhibitions and his work has been featured in many publications.
Kodiak and his roots remain a central part of his life. He regularly returns for rest and inspiration, as well as to share his knowledge and support young artists.
Amason's aesthetic and his reverence for the cultural practice of artmaking has made Alaska a richer place to live and work. As a trailblazer in the bridging of traditional and modern art, he has been instrumental in cultivating the idea of an Alaskan art movement.

On Wednesday, May 1, the University of Alaska Anchorage honored Alvin Amason with an Honorary Degree during a special ceremony in advance of spring commencement. Also recognized were Meritorious Service Award recipients Cathy Rasmuson and Ira Perman as well as Honorary Degree recipient Diane Kaplan.

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