Juneau's wearable art pageant shrinks in age of political correctness - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020
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Juneau’s wearable art pageant shrinks in age of political correctness

Juneau’s Wearable Art exhibition has seen better days — at least more creative days, and more liberated days.

Just two years ago, more than 30 entrants typically took part in the pageant, which is a fundraiser for the operations of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

[Read: The end of art in Juneau]

Beth Bolanger’s “Dragon” took third place in 2018, but was pulled from the final line-up after a complaint was lodged.

But then came the “woke police.”

In 2018, one creative entry from Haines caught the ire of progressives, who said it was cultural appropriation. The garment and model were withdrawn from the competition and publicly humiliated. JAHC then set forth stringent rules to ensure that no one ever commits the sin of cultural appropriation again.

Creativity, meet political correctness.

The result of JAHC’s plunge into an era of artistic prohibition? Only 18 people even entered this, the 20th anniversary of the arts event. That’s a 40 percent drop in the usual number entries.

2018-2019 became the era of an ensuing Mao-like “criticism-self-criticism” exercise by the arts council, which now states its mission as not promoting the arts, but destroying racial inequality.

“The JAHC recognizes that our society is challenged to overcome a complex web of inequities – racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and ableism among them. All of these forms of discrimination are powerful drivers of unequal individual and group outcomes. However, it is our belief that ALAANA [African, Latino, Asian, and Native American] individuals whose identities intersect with those of other “minority” social statuses often experience compounded mistreatment that is amplified by the interaction of race. We support the work being undertaken to dismantle the array of social and economic injustices; however, The JAHC has determined that we must focus our efforts to heighten our effectiveness. We move forward from our assessment that racism is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and that meaningful progress on advancing racial equity will have significant positive impact on challenging other discrimination-based injustices. Therefore, our current priority is working against racism by working toward racial equity in arts philanthropy.”

So states part of the long political creed that prospective artists read before they take part in the wearable arts competition.

“The JAHC Board of Directors and Staff have enacted an equity and inclusion policy to guide JAHC programming, events and actions. During the development of this policy there have been many courageous conversations about racial inequity, cultural appropriation and unintentional exclusion and stereotyping. And, we are confident and hopeful these rewarding and courageous conversations will continue. Please review the equity and inclusion policy on the next page, and keep it in mind as you design and create your project.”

The theme for this year’s pageant was “Joie de Vivre,” joy of living. The artists, however, held back because in this era of political correctness, being subject to shame by your arts peers is a bit of a kill joy.

(Editor’s note: the wearable art shown at the top of this story is from the 2019 competition, the first-place winner “Wishes & Prayers in Turbulent Times” by Rhonda Jenkins Gardinier).

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • SUCH a beautiful appropriate ending on the “Joy of Living” theme: “…being subject to shame by your arts peers is a bit of a kill joy.”

  • I was thinking about becoming a woman last month. But then I realized I might be appropriating someone else’s gender.

    And who would want to do that in and among the complex web of inequities, especially for a man thinking he can just go and appropriate womanhood without having personally experienced the sting of being oppressed as they have been?

    • Classic, Scott. Drop the mic right here.

    • Oh, you’re great! Best slam-dunk comment I’ve read in awhile. I agree with the other guy…mic-drop!

  • Political correctness, wokeness, and cancel culture run amok. All of the various ‘isms displayed by those who would have us all be the same and fit into their tidy box speaks volumes as to the end game of these cultural movements…we should all be the same and do as we are told is correct by the bourgeoisie socialist intellegencia. Thankfully the wokeness feeds upon itself as there is no end in the race to the bottom, and people are taking notice of this devolution.

    • “All of the various ‘isms displayed by those who would have us all be the same and fit into their tidy box speaks volumes as to the end game of these cultural movements…”
      Sounds a lot like the Catholicism movement in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries?

      • And what is wrong with keeping ones convictions?

  • “Joie de Vivre,” ummmmmm the title of the event is it a crime of cultural appropriation??? Or has Juneau started speaking French???

    Solution … Beth Bolanger should have stated she “self identified” as whatever barred her last year! Here it is — black history month, and MLK lessons are buried .

  • It’s amazing how radicals have been able to weasel their way into just about everything. I was a bit surprised to read about their oversight of this event, especially being an ART event. They often don’t even know the meanings of words they throw around as labels. Cultural Appropriation? Really….? So let me guess, a non native Alaskan can not exhibit any native Alaskan inspired art otherwise they are accused of cultural appropriation? To appropriate means to take as you own, it does not mean that you can’t appreciate or be inspired by it. Dumb arse ultra left libs… everything is cool as long as they agree with it and I find them to be the most intolerant group of individuals who are incapable of rational thought.

  • Undoubtedly, the JAHC is entirely funded by State and local government.

  • I am sure the lack of ferry service played no part in the drop of participants.

  • It is normal for authoritarian dictatorships to have censorship and strict standards for what “art” is allowed. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

  • I was going to write a long comment, but I won’t. I’ll simply say I sure hope not one penny of our public PFD funds are going to these guys. Nor one penny of state revenue.

  • Are these the same peeps that were reading to our kids in the public library?

  • Pretty sure the world has slipped a little off its axis when the arts community starts eating its liberal own and doesn’t allow artistic expression. They have come full circle when you think about it. I taste a bit of vomit in my mouth.
    .
    I’m out of state right now and my husband and I were just strolling by an art gallery. We stopped on the sidewalk and were looking in the window. I’m in a state with a lot of Native American history, ranching, etc. and the artwork reflects that. Does each artist have to give a DNA test to ensure they have “cred” to create a gorgeous bronze statue of a native chief? And what about the horse he’s on?
    .
    This hateful none sense and freakish sensitivity isn’t even remotely manageable but the world keeps trying to do it. Why? You have one person with their feelings hurt and an entire city has to see it their way.
    .
    I’m an Austrian, Russian, Armenian, Jew according to ancestry.com so please please please I want to approve my Korean husband to model my hand made dirndl and sheitel at the next event.

  • Pretty sure you are wrong.

  • Reading the previous comments, it seems pretty clear that nobody in this thread has any idea what cultural appropriation means in this context. None of the examples used are anything like what the conversation at the JAHC has been addressing since the initial controversy, and most are just ridiculous on their face. Do some research before spouting off an uninformed opinion on an issue, please.

  • Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Does anyone disagree that there is great beauty and great elegance in Asian art forms, perfection built up through generations over millennia? Can one not draw inspiration from the well of greatness that springs from the East? How can a sincere, proud Asian person go around melting down because someone who is not Asian thinks their cultural heritage is inspirational?

    I have a friend who is: Jewish by heritage, Mormon by her upbringing, atheist by choice, as white as a street lamp, and has a master’s degree in Japanese Linguistics. She spent 10 years teaching in Japanese public schools and a period of time in addition to that in the Asian mainland as a private tutor (China, South Korea and Malaysia). Even though there isn’t anything Asian about her, she speaks Japanese perfectly. Like a native. But she worked at it and made it her life’s goal. She now teaches Japanese in a private school in the States. Among her experiences of living and working in the States, she has experienced severe backlash from Asian-American snowflakes who are downright angry that she can engage with and converse with Japanese people using the Japanese language better than they can. How dare she, a white, high school instructor, dare to instruct THEM in the Japanese language, which is THEIR own property (which no one in their household has spoken for 4 generations of living in the US)?!?!?! But she did the work. They didn’t. They aren’t “entitled” to anything they didn’t earn. If you were raised in a Japanese-speaking home, and you have Asian features, you might not be so hot-headed about a simple fact of life, which is that you can handle yourself in Japanese. But if you are Asian by heritage and raised in a non-Japanese speaking household, and you got a “C” in Japanese II, and you can’t scribble in Kanji, don’t get all pissed off because a white person you know worked harder and achieved more than you did. I guess under the undefined law of “cultural appropriation,” my white friend, who has literally spent half of her adult life in Asia, learning and perfecting her command of the Japanese language, has no right to access or use the Japanese language because she isn’t Japanese herself. She has no right to attend college and achieve a master’s degree in Japanese linguistics. She has to walk on eggshells when an asian-americas kid signs up for her classes (in fact, she does NOT, but the woke philosophy would certainly say she does!). She is not allowed to perform Kanji calligraphy (which she is great at!) nor is she allowed to decorate her home in a traditional Japanese style. She’s not allowed to buy amazing Asian art and import it to the States. She’s not allowed to wear the traditional Kimono she received from her first host family to a costume party she hosts at her house for “Girls Day” because sharing the traditions of Japan with her friends, family, and students in the States would be TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE…because she’s white? She has no right to learn to cook Japanese food, and God forbid she prepare anything Japanese for her Asian-American friends who might suddenly feel a tad inadequate when they remember that “C” they got in Japanese II, and how embarrassed they were when they asked an old lady in the streets of Hokkaido “Which way to the pregnancy mall” instead of “which way to the shopping mall.” Whoopsie daisy!

    As to this crazy, attention-seeking individual who brought so much humiliation to this poor gal in last year’s art show, she probably doesn’t have anything in her life to be proud of. Other than promoting her identitarianism, I bet she can’t even find her way to the bottom of a Sushi menu. But since she’s not white, I sure hope she doesn’t go to Arctic Road Runner and order a cheeseburger… because THAT would be appropriating white culture. The rule works both ways, babe. Don’t learn to play baseball if you’re not white. Don’t travel to Germany and buy a pair of lederhosen for your boyfriend if you’re not white. Because if you ARE Asian, you should make sure you ONLY do Asian stuff. Now that’s what I call “WOKE!”

    IMO, this woman should step back and give herself time to appreciate that other people around her admire Asian culture and find it extremely inspirational and instructive… She should be flattered and proud that other artists wish to give Asian art its due homage by imitating it, learning from it, and expressing the beauty that springs from the disciplines so rich in Asian history, which were perfected over the course of millennia. Maybe she should take a break from being offended all over the place, and take a moment to recognize the beautiful gift of admiration through imitation that this artwork really is.

  • The art is in what you can get by without.

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