Shareholder wins Governor’s Award for Arts and Humanities

CIRI shareholder and accomplished artist Lalla Williams (Sugpiaq) received a 2010 Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities on Oct. 21. The award was sponsored by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Office of the Governor.

Williams is widely known for using skin sewing, an ancient technique, to create a wide variety of traditional and contemporary art. Some examples of her art include Sugpiat regalia, dolls and seal intestine windows. Williams is frequently a costume designer for Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse. She is currently working on the costumes for “Assimilation,” a play by Jack Dalton that opened on Nov. 19.

“I grew up not really knowing my culture because I was raised in Anchorage. Back in the 1980s, my kids were asked to dress in other Alaska Native cultures’ regalia for a show at the Native hospital. I realized then that I didn’t really know my own Sugpiat culture very well and I wanted to learn more,” said Williams.

Since then, Williams’ interest has morphed into her livelihood today as an artist and teacher. This November, Williams is teaching youth enrolled in the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s high school program how to make Sugpiat-style boots.

Of the award, Williams said: “I was nominated by the Alaska Native Heritage Center and I am very, very honored to be nominated for this peer-chosen award by people I work for and with.”