Indigenous leaders, activists, artists and scholars address common misperceptions about the North, fostering critical commentary about these issues through the exhibition Without Boundaries: Visual Conversations. The exhibition inspires dialogue across disciplines and platforms through a series of public programs and art installations. Artists involved include Edgar Heap of Birds, James Luna, Shan Goshorn, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, Jessie Kleemann, Nicholas Galanin, Charlene Teters, Barry Pottle, Larry McNeil, and Emily Johnson.

The Anchorage Museum has been hosting conversations that explore issues facing the North that have global impact. Past conversations have focused on harvesting plants in the North and the relationship between landscape and culture. Future conversations will cover topics including Arctic music and sound and what it means to be a Northerner. Each connects Indigenous people through conversation.

Statement from Guest Curator Sonya Kelliher-Combs

I am honored to be one of several artists, scholars, activists and leaders who have been invited to curate conversations at the Anchorage Museum and to curate the exhibition Without Boundaries: Visual Conversations. This important series and exhibition promotes public discourse and allows people within our community to be involved, engaged, to share perspectives and to have a voice. It is an unprecedented opportunity at the Anchorage Museum to bring together local, national and international participants.  

My intention for the series and exhibition is to foster a dialogue that address issues close to my heart. From the onset, it became clear that I wanted to focus on Indigenous voices, voices that historically have been stifled. Through colonization, Indigenous peoples have fought to maintain their identities and lifeways. The cultural diversity and wisdom that these peoples bring to the world has value – knowledge and understanding that should be respected and protected. 

Indigenous people face environmental, social, economic and political challenges every day. These are not new problems, though they are compounded by outside interests, which can exploit natural resources, knowledge and perspectives. The outside approach is often voyeuristic, offering an outside lens in the guise of interpreter of “the exotic”.

That is why it is imperative to engage, support and provide a forum and venue for the voice of Indigenous peoples. I applaud the numerous organizations that work to create opportunities for dialogue and understanding between populations. Through collaboration and discourse we can begin to erase the lines that separate us. We do not want to continue to repeat the historical abuses, discrimination and marginalization suffered by Indigenous peoples.  

Insight and understanding can be achieved though communication. Past conversations focused on issues of commodification of culture, self-determination, capturing identity, cultural voyeurism, imperialism, land ownership, place names and exhibiting culture. These multi-faceted conversations were starting points for a continued dialogue that helps bridge boundaries – geographic, cultural or other. 

I want to thank the museum staff, artists, curators, conversation participants and the public for allowing me to share and foster this dialogue.  

– Sonya Kelliher-Combs