An artist who hails from Kodiak has received an award from the United States Artist Fellows program. Alutiiq mask maker Perry Eaton was selected to receive a grant for 50,000 dollars for his work in the craft. Eaton has been focused on the traditional art form since 2000. He was one of the artists who travelled to Russia with the Autiiq Museum to see the original masks on display there. He said he then became "artistically fixated" on creating Alutiiq masks after seeing pictures of them taken by Helen Simeonoff during her visit to the Chateau-Musee in France. Eaton said he was motivated by his love for the masks. He credits artists such as Jacob Simeonoff for paving the way for other Alutiiq mask makers.
In comments he wrote following his selection for the honor, Eaton said that he’s inspired by all Alaska Native culture and that he’s glad the cultures are becoming more widely valued. He mentioned groups in Kodiak that he says are contributing to the increased interest and appreciation of Alutiiq culture such as the Alutiiq Museum, the Kodiak Area Native Association, the dance groups, all of the tribal and village corporations, as well as the school district.
Eaton said the award is so new to him that his head is still swimming. He wants to learn more about the United States Artists organization and hopes to see other Alaskan artists recognized by the organization.
Eaton, who was born in Kodiak and now lives in Anchorage, is the founding president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Native Heritage Center. He also served 17 years as chief executive officer of Alaska Village Initiatives. He serves on the Alaska Native Art Foundation board of directors.
Fifty artists a year are named USA Fellows; each receives an unrestricted grant of 50,000 dollars.
The program supports artists in all career stages, including emerging and mid-career artists, as well as established names. The fellowships are awarded across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Eaton was chosen in the Crafts and Traditional Arts category. United States Artists is a grant-making, artist-advocacy organization that was created to support America’s working artists. USA launched in September 2005 with 22 million dollars in seed funding provided by a coalition of foundations including the Rasmuson Foundation as well as Ford, Rockefeller and others. This is the fourth year that the artist fellowships have been awarded.