#StickFigureAK uses art to spark community

Monica Gokey's radio buddy.
Monica Gokey’s radio buddy.

From ancient cave art to bathroom sign indicators, stick figures are everywhere. And so sometimes, we don’t really think about them. But The Arc of Anchorage is trying to change that, and the way we see people who experience intellectual disabilities, with a new statewide art initiative.

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Everyone can draw a stick figure, right? Here’s mine:


But most people who participate in #StickFigureAK are much more creative. They’re using everything from candy to crab legs to human bodies to make stick figures that represent things they love.

“Sometimes we think of a stick figure and we kind of think, ‘Well, you know, whatever.’ It doesn’t seem that exciting or it doesn’t have a lot of potential,'” says project creator Naomi Hodawanus. “And unfortunately, and I hate to even say this, but unfortunately, when some people think of a person with a disability,they’re quick to dismiss that person’s potential, too, just like we do with a stick figure. But really, even if someone has an intellectual or developmental disability, they were created to create just like we do.”

The statewide initiative is run by The Arc of Anchorage, which works with people with intellectual disabilities. They offer work-skills training, social opportunities, and art classes.

“At the Arc of Anchorage we embrace people of all abilities, and we recognize that everyone really does have the ability to create. We create words, pictures, sounds, movement. We’re always creating something. And when we’re doing that we’re giving form to who we are and context of us as an individual.”

Everyone in Alaska is invited to submit up to three figures to the StickFigureAK web site where people will vote for their favorites. The top 100 will be printed in a limited edition coffee table book. Submissions are open until September 1.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at ahillman@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Anne here.

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