NASAA Notes: January 2023

January 3, 2023

Alaska: Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program

A young man holds up a pair of fans made from ten white feathers and two wooden hoops decorated with brown geometric designs.

A Mt. Edgecumbe High School workshop participant holds a set of tegumiak or “dance fans.” Feathered fans accentuate the fluid movements of a dancer’s arms and are part of traditional Yup’ik dance regalia for men. Photo courtesy of First Light Alaska and Alaska State Council on the Arts, from a video story about the project by Anna Hoover.

The Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA) supports cultural heritage education and engagement through the Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program. Funded by the Rasmuson Foundation, the program helps school-age children and youth explore culturally specific arts practices through meaningful interactions with culture bearers, elders and teaching artists. Students learn traditional and contemporary art forms integral to many aspects of community life, ranging from subsistence and survival to celebration and creative expression. Projects reflect diverse cultures and develop students’ arts and language skills, empathy, and cross-cultural understanding while also teaching them about their community’s distinct history and heritage. Activities take place in settings such as school classrooms, summer camps, civic facilities and cultural centers.

ASCA offers grant funds dedicated to supporting Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program activities. Project Grants provide up to $10,000 to develop programs, collaborations or fiscal sponsorships. Grantees may use up to 15% of Project Grant funding for administrative, indirect and staffing costs. Fast Track Grants provide streamlined access to smaller grants (up to $2,000) to implement selected activities. Project Grant recipients gather in cohort groups to develop programming ideas, share experiences and exchange information on best practices for serving Alaskan students. The Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program is inclusive of all Alaska’s ethnic cultures and residents, but funding priority is given to cultural heritage groups and organizations representing communities that face challenges and/or barriers to receiving grants. No match is required, to make funds accessible to communities of limited economic means.

Another component of the program is a Youth Cultural Heritage Fellowship, designed to help emerging artists and cultural leaders build their skills in project development, grant writing, teaching and evaluation. Up to four fellows per program cycle are selected to receive financial support and participate in a training cohort. The fellows finish the program learning best practices for working with youth, adapting and developing culturally informed youth programming, and steps for project development. The fellows also start and finalize a Youth Cultural Heritage project outline that is eligible for funding from the grant program. Training is provided by Raven’s Group, an ASCA partner specializing in program development for Alaska Native and rural Alaskan youth.

Through the Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program, ASCA seeks to deepen cultural understanding and engagement across the state. The program design is consistent with evidence showing how culturally rooted programs can help young people succeed in school and in life. Studies point to the academic advantages of culturally responsive teaching as well as the positive effects of creative youth development programs on achievement, expressive skills, self-esteem, identity and social connectedness. Research suggests that all students can benefit from these approaches, but cultural engagement can be an especially important way to facilitate positive health and social outcomes for Native American and Alaska Native youth.

To learn more about the Youth Cultural Heritage Grant Program, contact ASCA Arts Education Program Director Laura Forbes.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

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