For Stephen Qacung Blanchett, one of the main impetuses bringing him into the world of performance art was his own mixed cultural heritage. He is the son of a strong Yup’ik Inuit mother who brought him up in an extremely traditional life; and a strong African-American father who taught him to be proud of his Black heritage that also shaped his upbringing. As he has done many times artistically, he first had to blend and mix his own story and life experiences, to bring his life into completion. Blanchett is a global citizen whose Yup’ik and black roots guide his leadership and artistic vision.
Blanchett has served in leadership roles with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, First Alaskans Institute, Pamyua Inc., and other arts, culture, and community service entities. He is currently the Cultural Heritage & Education Manager at Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska. He is a 2019 Dance/USA Fellowship recipient, a 2016 and 2019 recipient of the Rasmuson Foundation’s Artist Fellowship, and a 2015 National Artist Fellowship recipient through the Native Arts and Culture Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Alaska Native Studies.
Music, it’s a key or a tool for us to keep our culture alive, our language alive. To save our people. We’re doing this to save our lives and using art to try to bring a light to the darkness.
― Stephen Qacung Blanchett (Yup’ik)
Blanchett’s SHIFT project, “Cuumillat’stun – Like Our Ancestors”, will develop a series of workshops to strengthen Sugpiaq/Alutiiq drumming and dancing, fostering the development of a new generation of composers and choreographers within the seven communities that reside on Kodiak Island. Cultural practitioners will represent each community to be taught by dance experts, Elders, and surviving members of the original Alutiiq group. An island-wide dance festival will showcase new dances. Organizational partner, Old Harbor Alliance, will co-manage the project and will coordinate the events and dance festival.
The Old Harbor Alliance, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, was established by community leaders to provide educational programs & projects that bring residents together to build a healthy community. The Old Harbor Alliance, through support of various grants and private donations, has organized and sponsored Nuniaq Alutiiq Camp as well as family gatherings, Alutiiq traditional dancing and cultural workshops in Old Harbor. The Old Harbor Alliance is also focused on food sovereignty and manages the Sitkalidak Bison Herd and Sitkalidak Sunrise Farm. They are working towards building capacity and programs that foster a healthy community with strong leaders for all generations.