Hidden talents of Alaska

“We want to become drug dealers of this world, and we want inspiration to be our drug”

What do you like about coffee shops? The cozy atmosphere, the smell and taste of the first sip of a coffee, the sound of falling coffee beans, or the flavor of baked buns that a barista just took out from the oven? Personally, I like watching people there. It is like a scene from a movie—music is playing, people are engaged in conversation, others gaze at each other and smile and some quietly sip their coffee. It feels like people left all their problems outside of the coffee house. No sadness, no worries. Only harmony, inspiration and engaging conversations.

It was a usual day at SteamDot downtown coffee shop, but unfortunately, not many people were there. I started to get bored, but suddenly my attention was drawn to an enthusiastic conversation. I turned around and saw two guys. They looked pretty young, and the things they were discussing caught my curiosity. I didn’t hesitate much and joined their table. Surprisingly, they were more than happy to share their ideas and thoughts with me, and so was I.

I introduced myself and could not stop asking questions about the things that they were speculating about earlier.

It turns out that these two full-of-ideas young guys, Dominic Hooper and Gio Barth, are on their way to establish an organization called Culture Matters.

“We want to become drug dealers of this world, and we want inspiration to be our drug,” Gio said. “We will push this drug to the kids of our world and they definitely will love it!”

“So, pretty much what we want to do is what Ted Talks does with spreading ideas. But we want to spread our ideas in a way that kids of our generation will be able to find value in them and actually change their lives,” Gio continued.

Dominic said the mission of their organization is to shed light on the outstanding and talented people who do not have a stable platform to share their masterpieces and abilities with the public.

“We are trying to start the idea of actually impacting our youth to do what they love, and do not just live and pay the bills in order to survive,” Dominic said.

In other words, by making inspirational videos of talented people who do what they love, Culture Matters will primarily influence a generation of young people not to step toward a wrong path.

I got interested in how they came up with this idea, and what made them want to do this.

“Why are we doing this? Well, basically I sat down and wrote some of the typical issues that I see with kids of our generation. First, when we get out from high school here in America, we are expected to choose what we are going to do for the rest of our lives, and we are overwhelmed with all the options. Two, we do not have any realistic role models to look up to. So, if you go to any elementary school or high school, for example, and you ask kids who their look up to as a role model, you’re not going to hear names of the engineers, you are not going to hear names of the philanthropists, you are not going to hear the names of the people who are actually impacting our life in a good way. You might hear the name of insignificant individuals. They do amazing jobs, I am sure they are amazing people but are they contributing back to society?” Gio said.

Right now their goal is to attract more people, get funding and start working on their first inspirational videos. A mentor that has been a great help to them is a local artist in Anchorage, Duke Russell. He has provided mentorship for these young guys with creative ideas, life lessons, and tools to pave the way. Russell has played a prominent role in the Anchorage art scene for over 30 years, and he is an active member in the Spenard community. Being a promising young artist, Gio always admired Russell’s talent and his works because he has his own unique style, and he just does what he love which is the main idea of Culture Matters.

I did not realize almost three hours had passed since we started talking with Dominic and Gio. My perception about culture in Anchorage has changed tremendously. Coming from another country, I have never seen so many empty streets; it is often difficult to meet many people on the streets which is why I thought there was not much going on, but I was wrong. There are outstanding individuals who want and who are ready to change the Alaska way of life and make it urban with cultural diversity. Alaska is full of talents and each of them should have their own spotlight.

first photo
Left: Gio Barth Right: Dominic Hooper

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Yana Popova

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