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Anchorage, Alaska: Anchorage Opera has been approved for a $15,000 Grants for Arts Projects award to support the USA premiere production of the opera Missing, by distinguished First Nations playwright Marie Clements and Juno–award-winning composer Brian Current, which gives voice, in English and Gitxsan, to the current, tragic missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) crisis.

Anchorage Opera’s project is among 1,248 projects across America totaling $28,840,000 that were selected to receive this first round of fiscal year 2022 funding in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects like this one from Anchorage Opera that help support the community’s creative economy,” said NEA Acting Chair Ann Eilers. “Anchorage Opera in Anchorage, Alaska, is among the arts organizations nationwide that are using the arts as a source of strength, a path to well-being, and providing access and opportunity for people to connect and find joy through the arts.”

“Our repertoire choices are always made with our community interests and needs in mind,” said Reed Smith, General Director. “Anchorage Opera embraces the opportunity to use our artform to raise awareness of the tragic MMIWG crisis and help with healing in our Indigenous community. We are humbled to bring this story to Alaska that needs to be told, about the women and girls we must remember.”

 Anchorage Opera (AO)’s USA premiere production is Indigenous led; directed by Shannon Davis of Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Sami descent and conducted by Timothy Long, of Muscogee Creek and Choctaw descent, and Indigenous performers are cast, including Alaska Native, Kira Neta Apaachuaq Eckenweiler (Iñupiaq) of Unalakleet. AO is partnering with organizations, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Native Movement, Data for Indigenous Justice, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Alaska Native Justice Center, Native Peoples Action, and the Anchorage Museum, on projects surrounding the production. Voth Hall in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts will serve as a space for opera attendees to view exhibits and informational tables from partners, and pre-performance traditional ceremonies and post-performance Talking Circles will connect the audience with Alaska Native culture and with the cast and artistic team of Missing. A private performance for survivors and families of MMIWG with on-site grief counselors will be presented. With support from Alaska Airlines, performances will engage audience from across the state of Alaska to experience the opera hailed as an “extraordinarily moving and thought-provoking work…a milestone for the opera world…a healing journey in a magnificent mélange of singing, acting and music”. A poetic expression of loss, hope and the spirit finding home, Missing speaks to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in Alaska and across the nation. In a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), Alaska ranks fourth in the nation for the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, with Anchorage listed as having the third-highest number of all cities across the US. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women, and those rates of violence on reservations and rural areas can be up to ten times higher than the national average.

Anchorage Opera acknowledges that we gather and are performing on the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Athabascans. For thousands of years the Dena’ina have been and continue to be the stewards of this land. It is with gratefulness and respect that we recognize the contributions, innovations, and contemporary perspectives of the upper Cook Inlet Dena’ina.

Anchorage Opera is one of the largest producers of the performing arts in Alaska and the first opera company in North America founded in the circumpolar North in 1962.