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Bethel's Reyne Athanas receives Governor's Award for Arts Advocacy

Reyne Athanas inside her art classroom at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus. Athanas will be inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame on Oct. 20, 2020.
Greg Kim
/
KYUK
Reyne Athanas inside her art classroom at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus.

Longtime Bethel artist, teacher, and arts advocate Reyne Athanas has been awarded the 2021 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Award for Arts Advocacy for her career and work promoting the arts in Alaska.

Reyne Athanas moved to Bethel in 1973 as an art teacher. She has taught in Bethel at nearly every level from elementary school to college. And since her teaching career, she has volunteered for an array of arts nonprofits, many of which she helped found, like the Kuskokwim Arts Guild and the Bethel Council on the Arts. She also started Saturday Market, which provides local artists with a place to sell their wares. She has sold her own ceramics there, one of her primary mediums of art. For all this, she received the Governor’s Arts and Humanities Award for Arts Advocacy.

“Art is what makes life come alive, captures feelings, moments, and shares human emotions,” Athanas said, rereading an excerpt from her acceptance speech. “I believe that there is art and creativity, talent, or whatever you want to choose to call it in all of us. The trick is figuring out how to express it.”

Athanas has encouraged people to seek art in any medium. She said that art isn’t just in paintings or music. It’s also in cooking, or teaching, or parenting.

“Everything people do can be art when they put their heart and soul into it,” Athanas said.

She said that she has advocated for the arts by volunteering at community and school events, and by encouraging fellow artists and students.

“What being an advocate means to me means saying yes more than you say no,” Athanas said. “It means helping to find solutions to problems that are roadblocks to creativity and vision for oneself and for the arts community.”

She said that anyone interested in art should join the Southwest Alaska Arts Group. That’s the organization that was recently created by joining together the Kuskokwim Arts Guild and the Bethel Council on the Arts. She said that there’s room there for everybody.

Athanas was also inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020.

Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.
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