Sumitomo Pogo and Kinross Fort Knox bring Capital Campaign to a Close

 

Lorna Shaw (far right), External Affairs Manager with Sumitomo Pogo Mine presents the Mining Match gift to Morris Thompson Center representatives.

Lorna Shaw (far right), External Affairs Manager with Sumitomo Pogo Mine presents the Mining Match gift to Morris Thompson Center representatives.

 

Anna Atchison (far right), Government Relations Manager, presents Kinross Fort Knox's mining match gift to the campaign.

Anna Atchison (far right), Government Relations Manager, presents Kinross Fort Knox’s mining match gift to the campaign.

Thanks to the help of more than a thousand generous donors and dedicated volunteers, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center has successfully completed a capital campaign that raised $29.3 million to build the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. After nearly two decades of planning, the effort officially came to a close today with the fulfillment of pledges made by Sumitomo Pogo and Kinross Fort Knox. Last Summer, Fort Knox and Pogo gold mines challenged the community to come together to raise the final $175,000 necessary to complete the campaign – promising to match each donation that came in until the goal was met. Today both mines made good on that pledge, presenting a total of $87,500 ($43,750 each) which amounted to their half of the mining match challenge.

“Both Pogo and Fort Knox wanted to jump in at the end to help complete this great project,” said Lorna Shaw, External Affairs Manager with Sumitomo Pogo. “We felt the Mining Match was a way we could encourage the community to get involved. Everyone I know believes the Center is a real jewel for our community, and both companies are very proud to have played a part in making it happen.”

It was a $25,000 gift from ConocoPhillips presented last month that actually took the mining match campaign over the top. Scott Jepson, VP of External Affairs at ConocoPhillips presented the final mining match gift to Morris Thompson Center President Charlene Marth at the Doyon annual meeting. “This was a special milestone for us because in 2004 Doyon made the first major gift to the campaign,” said Marth. “At the end, it was ConocoPhillips made the final gift that took us over the top.” 

Marth, who is the late Morris Thompson’s niece, said, “This facility really does embody my Uncle. He was a bridge between cultures, this facility provides that. He brought people together, this center does that. He talked about being world class, this building is that!”

A Leadership Team made up of 28 volunteers from across Alaska was committed to raising funds to complete the building with zero debt, which is what makes operating costs affordable to the lease-holding partners. The $29,334,112 raised for planning, land purchase, construction and exhibit installation included a combination of federal ($16.7M), state ($7.6M), Fairbanks North Star Borough ($250,000) and private ($4.7M) funds. The project required a small line of credit during the construction phase, but that has been paid off and the Center is now debt free.

It was the late Senator Ted Stevens who first challenged the project partners to show how they could afford to operate the building once it was built. “The Senator always told us that we shouldn’t rely on state or federal funds to operate,” said Executive Director Cindy Schumaker. “The high cost of energy makes it tough, but with nearly five years under our belt, we’re doing it.”

‘Taste of Alaska’ Program Serves up Traditional Athabascan Food and Cultural Knowledge

If part of cultural expression is the preparing and sharing of traditional foods, then TCC Cultural Programs department is doing things right. Dixie Alexander, Tanana Chiefs Conference Cultural Programs Director, created the Taste of Alaska program where traditional foods are shared with small private groups. Alexander grew up in a traditional subsistence lifestyle in Fort Yukon cooking for her 12 brothers and sisters, so cooking comes natural for her. “While my guests are enjoying soup, I am explaining how we show respect for the animal by using all of its parts,” says Alexander. “We eat the meat, use the bones for tools, tendons for sinew, the hide becomes our clothes, the bladder bag becomes our traditional ‘tupperware’ – even the head is a delicacy.”

The unique experience is appreciated. Alexander recently prepared a meal that featured salmon dip, baked King salmon steaks, and frybread with blueberry jam. “The lunch was out of this world!” said Matt Rogers, Interim Director at Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center. “We are in the midst of recruiting new staff for the clinic, and the meal was the BEST recruitment activity we could ever hope to provide.”

In 2011, the Alaska State Council on the Arts chose Dixie Alexander to be among an elite group of Athabascan Indians recognized as ‘living cultural treasures.’ Each was chose for their work to relay their way of life to a new generation of Athabascan children and community members. It is exactly this skill that is allowing the Taste of Alaska program to flourish under Alexander’s leadership.

If you are interested in learning more about the Taste of Alaska program, or booking a meal of your own, contact Dixie at 907.459.3740.

ConocoPhillips Makes New Gift to Help Complete Exhibits

ConocoPhillips Alaska presented a $25,000 donation to the Morris Thompson Center in March 2012. This was the oil company’s third gift to the Center, and brings ConocoPhillips’ total donation to $105,000. Jarrot Handy, Vice President of North Slope Operations (center) and Mary Gibbs, Director of Philanthropy (left) presented the gift to Morris Thompson Center’s Board President Charlene Marth (right). Handy said, “I can see why the Center is such a source of pride to your community and a tribute to a beloved leader.”

Wells Fargo Donates $50,000 to Close the Gap

Wells Fargo presented a check for $50,000 today to help complete the final phase of our exhibits. Darren Franz, Wells Fargo Northern Alaska District President, presented the check to MTCVC Board Treasurer Brian Ridley during a Tanana Chiefs Conference board meeting.

“Wells Fargo is thrilled to support the Morris Thompson Center in its mission to celebrate Athabascan culture, promote economic development and foster cultural understanding in the Interior,” said Franz.  “This is an investment in the future of Interior Alaska. We believe we’re only as strong as the communities we serve.”

In 2010, Wells Fargo gave $5,000 directly to support the creation and growth of Alaska Native Cultural programs within the Center. This new gift demonstrates support for the continued growth of these programs that celebrate and preserve the rich Athabascan heritage of Interior Alaska’s first people.

The majority of the Center’s exhibits opened in 2009, however one section was put on hold due to lack of funding. “As a partnership of three non-profit organizations, we’ve taken it slow and moved forward when funding is secure,” said Ridley. “This gift from Wells Fargo is extremely important because it jumpstarts the final effort to complete our exhibits,” said Ridley. According to Ridley, the exhibits that are already installed tell the story of ‘how we live’ in Interior Alaska. The next phase continues that story with a focus on the visitor to Alaska – helping them experience how we live and what we do.

The Wells Fargo donation brings the total raised for the MTCVC project to $29,055,000, with an estimated $200,000 still needed. Construction of the MTCVC facility and Phase I of the exhibits was funded with a combination of federal ($16.7M), state ($7.6M), and private ($4.4M) funds. The project required a small line of credit during the construction phase, but that has been paid off and the Center is now debt free.

More than 100,000 people visited the Center in 2010, and 2011 is keeping pace with last year. According to MTCVC Executive Director, the positive response is overwhelming. “Visitors rave about the friendly staff that help them plan their trip, and Alaskans love the exhibits,” said Schumaker. “It’s music to our ears when a local resident tells us we’ve gotten it right.”

Wells Fargo invested $186,000 in more than 30 nonprofits and schools in Interior Alaska in 2011.  In addition, Wells Fargo team members in Fairbanks pledged $24,000 to local charities during the company’s annual Community Support Campaign in September.  Each year, Wells Fargo invests $1.5 million in more than 280 nonprofits and schools in Alaska.  Wells Fargo’s Alaska team members logged a record 10,100 volunteer hours in 2010.

Lettuce and Cabbage and Kale, Oh My!

The Morris Thompson Center has delivered more than 100 pounds of fresh, healthy vegetables to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank so far this summer. Facility Manager Jason Faris doubles as a ‘master gardener’ to care for the Center’s flowers and historic garden. “Since the garden sits next to our historic cabin, all our vegetables are ones that were grown in Fairbanks in 1915,” says Faris. “If you didn’t find it here then, you won’t find it in our garden now.”

Kale, lettuce, cabbage, turnips, sage, thyme and potatoes all go to the Food Bank. The beans are held back, however. Dixie Alexander, the cultural program director at the Center, pickles the beans and uses them throughout the year in her ‘Taste of Alaska’ program. Nothing like eating from the garden all year long!

Athabascan Beadwork Designs Inspire Sidewalk Mosaics

Athabascan beadwork – and a willow root basket – will soon become sidewalk art outside the Morris Thompson Center. Inspired by designs from Athabascan master artists from all over Interior Alaska, the artwork was digitized, enlarged, and translated into glass tile mosaics that are being prepped for installation later this month. Belarde Company out of  Seattle, WA provides a patented process, Lithocrete, which allows for the seeding of small glass tiles in concrete. “The color palette is vibrant enough to do justice to these incredible beadwork designs,” said Cultural Program Director Dixie Alexander. “They look beautiful!” The completed sidewalk mosaics will be 8 ft to 14 ft in diameter.

Designs are inspired by the following artists:

  • Lina Demoski/Anvik
  • Judy Thomas/Northway
  • Mary Simple/Ft. Yukon
  • Master Artists working on the Athabascan clothing project for Tanana Chiefs Conference
  • Unknown artist from the Tanana area – from a slipper in the UA Museum of the North collection

 

Love Under the Antler Arch

Brian and Marilyn wed under the Antler Arch

Outgoing News-Miner publisher Marilyn Romano and her longtime beau Brian Hove got married under the Morris Thompson Center’s Antler Arch in late June. Romano was relocating for her new position at Alaska Airlines, and wanted to get married in Fairbanks before moving to Anchorage. “Brian and I met here 13 years ago, so the banks of the Chena River was perfect,” said Romano. “We love the Alaskan feel of the antler arch.”

The Antler Arch Web Cam made it easy to involve her family in Texas on short notice. She called and told them to check out the website, but didn’t tell them why. “They were all surprised and happy to be able to watch us get married on the ‘Antler Cam’ – and the tourists loved it!” said Romano.

If you want to coordinate your own special moment under the arch, tell your family and friends around the world to go to www.morristhompsoncenter.org and click on the Antler Arch link.

Traditional Athabascan Clothing Project

In the Artisans Workshop, master artists Josephine John, Corinna Evans, Denise Hardesty, Rita Pitka and Dixie Alexander are busy sewing a set of traditional Athabascan clothing. Stunning beadwork, moosehide, wolf, muskrat, wolverine and beaver fur, combined with master skin sewing skills, lots of laughter, and sore fingers are yielding the following creations:

  • Yukon Style Women’s Muskrat Parka
  • Yukon Style Child Size Parka
  • Traditional Dress
  • Moose Skin Chiefs Coat
  • Moose Skin Vest
  • Large and small Beaver Skin Hat
  • Large and small Beaver gloves

Beginning June 1st, visitors to the Center will be able to dress their entire family in these beautiful creations and take home a family portrait on CD. $65 per family for a 15-minute portrait session.

Flying Bishop’s Plane Graces Center’s Lobby

More than 250 family and friends of the late Bishop William Gordon gathered in October 2010 to dedicate the plane and exhibit installed in his honor. They sang hymns in Inupiat and Athabascan dialects, laughed, and shared warm memories with the Bishop’s wife Shirley and their children Bill, Paneen, and Anna who were all on hand for the dedication.

Bishop Gordon arrived in Alaska in 1943. During his 30 years of service, the Bishop logged hundreds of thousands of air miles ministering to congregations throughout the state. The sound of his plane buzzing a community became a frequent and welcome greeting. “We weren’t excited about church, we were excited about donuts,” joked the Rev. Anna Frank.

“He loved his work and the people he met along the way,” said his wife Shirley. “And he was loved in return.” We hope the sight of the Bishop’s plane hanging in our lobby reminds those who visit the Center to celebrate and strengthen the ties that bind Alaska’s diverse people.

A special Friends of the Flying Bishop plaque will list the names of businesses and individuals who make a donation to the Center in honor of the Bishop. For more information, call 907.459.3701 or email info@morristhompsoncenter.org.

Morris Thompson Portrait Unveiled

Morris’ family and friends gathered at an AFN reception in October 2010 to see the unveiling of a portrait of the Center’s namesake. Athabascan artist James Grant, Sr., a nephew of Thompson’s started the oil on canvas portrait in 2008. The 5 ft. by 4 ft. oil on canvas painting was nearly complete when Grant died of cancer in April 2010. The portrait was completed by Yupik artist Moses “Uksuq” Wassilie, a favorite artist of Thompson who had also painted a portrait of Morris’ wife Thelma.

Completion of the hand-carved cedar frame also has a familial connection. James Grant’s brother, Jay Schrock, is an accomplished wood carver who often worked side-by-side with Grant on his art projects. Schrock completed the frame based on his brother’s original plans. Hand-carved flowers representative of Athabascan beadwork, a traditional Chief’s necklace, and a painted scene from Thompson’s hometown of Tanana adorn the cedar frame.

Morris’ daughter Nicole attending the unveiling and offered these thoughts.  “I’ve heard stories in my life about my father. The one that sticks out the most was when he was a little boy. Kids would come by and ask him if he wanted to go play outside, and he’d say, ‘No, I’m going to read books because I’m going to be a big man some day.’ That [story] is my favorite. His perseverance, humor, work ethic, and his love for life is his legacy.”