Meet Alaska’s next generation of artists
Alaska. A place where the astonishing landscape is art in itself. Despite the minimal population, Alaska produces exceptionally talented individuals. Maybe it’s the rays of the midnight sun, or the cold isolation of the winter that breeds these skilled artists. Maybe Alaska attracts them like a powerful magnet. Either way, there is no shortage of incredible talent among the whispering birch trees.
Alaska has cultivated very skilled athletes, musicians, and reputable historical figures. The different varieties of up-and-coming artists are bountiful. From graphic design, to tattooing, to photography, the possibilities are endless. Taking a look into these individuals’ lives and creative spaces lends the scope to the public to see how they navigate their artistic journeys, and what they hope to do with their talents.
Danni Crombie, a 24-year-old Gwich’in Athabaskan from Anchorage began her journey into multimedia art as a young child. She would create drawings to express her feelings and emotions. Her drawings ranged from humorous pieces, to art addressing childhood fears, and sorrows. Later in her life when she began the transition to college, her passion for art resurfaced. She could only see herself pursuing art from there on out.
Crombie graduated from Fort Lewis College, in Durango, Colorado, in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts. Since achieving her academic credential she has continued her multimedia art expedition back home in Alaska. Given the pandemic, she now primarily promotes her creations on Instagram, and her website, dannicrombieart.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected artists all over the world in positive and negative ways. Some had much more time to create. Others, like Crombie, have experienced the not-so-great effects, such as lack of motivation, and inspiration.
“I found it was more difficult to be creative when I didn’t have the everyday hustle and bustle to inspire me. I get a lot of ideas when I’m out and about experiencing life.”
Crombie’s art is inspired by her home state of Alaska, her family, and their experiences. She comes from a very large mixed family who all have very unique experiences that she likes to explore through her artwork. As well as her own. Her large mixed family includes siblings who are step, half, and adopted. Members of her family are Inupiaq, Aleut, Yupik, and Gwich’in such as herself, which has given her multitudes of perspectives. She hopes to make art that speaks to people on multiple levels. “I hope to create art that reminds people of who they are and where they came from,” she said.
Tangible art isn’t the only type of artistic creations Alaskan artists produce. Whether it be traditional music performed by various Alaska Native tribes or the popularized genres of music played by local musicians from Anchorage, it all tells a story.
Ed Washington is a 28-year-old musician from Anchorage. He has deep roots in the world of music. He grew up in a family that shared the same passion, and they even sang in a group together at one point. Though Washington has always been involved with music he really started his relationship with it around his college years.
“I learned how to mix beats in college, then I started writing songs. I would record all my friends, and knock on the doors of every studio in town to gain experience,” he said. “Eventually, I got opportunities to sit in on sessions, and I learned more about mixing. I studied classical music in college at UAA. As I progressed I started meeting more artists, and making more music. Now I perform, and do my own thing.”
Washington has played many local venues, some including Williwaw Social, Kaladi Brothers Cafe, and Sewards Music and Art Festival. He hopes to leave his mark in some way in the music Community. He wants to give his listeners the same feeling he gets when he hears a good song, because “ nothing speaks louder than music.” Washington produces, and sings multiple genres of music, mainly R&B/Soul. He also dabbles in genres such as hip-hop, and rap. Someone he idolizes, and his music resembles is R&B artist Frank Ocean.
Some things that inspire Washington are love, nature, God, and the world around him. When it comes to motivation to create he never forces it. It comes to him like it’s his first nature.
With the good comes the bad. Though Ed has had success in his musical endeavors, he too has faced challenges. “I have faced difficulties pertaining to my race, my sexuality, and the type of music I make. But I choose to focus that energy into my art.”
Washington continues to pursue his passion for music. He has his music available to stream online on iTunes, Bandcamp, and more.
The Anchorage Community supports so many up-and-coming local artists. Anchorage’s North Face store on Fifth Avenue did a collaboration with Tzandi, and ¥€$, two local artists in December 2021. The creator of ¥€$ (pronounced like “yes”), Isaiah Samson-Samaniego, is a 22-year-old, current Eagle River resident. His roots are in Seattle but his home has been Alaska for most of his life.
Samson-Samaniego started his journey of graphic design, and fashion back when he was attending Arizona State University. While attending school he had a realization that school was not meant for him. This gave him an opportunity to figure out his true path, and he came to the conclusion of design.
What inspires him to create is his surroundings is Alaska’s beautiful scenery. He also enjoys traveling and connecting with the people and the places he goes to. Samson-Samaniego wants to convey the message that, “for me, each piece I make is conveying a message of its own. As a creative person, I’m showing that being from a small place in Alaska does not put a limitation on what you can achieve.”
He hopes to take his clothing project ¥€$ To an international level one day. That would mean possibly doing tour merchandising for famous artists, or even designing his own original sneaker. The possibilities are endless.
All of these artists have nothing, but bright futures ahead of them. Supporting local artists as such benefits the community in so many helpful ways.