The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s Main Street Gallery. (KRBD file photo)

A Ketchikan artist is creating a new art exhibit about foster care.

Ketchikan artist Carmel Anderson, has teamed up with Ketchikan Indian Community, or KIC, for the exhibit. This project, set to debut at the Main Street Gallery in May 2022 involves much more than installations — Anderson says she’s reaching out to the community, asking anyone involved in the foster care system to share their stories.

“We are here to look for people who can share their stories so that communities can really get a broad perspective of, what is foster care? What does it mean to the alumni, the children to the foster parents, the advocates, the social workers, the bio-parents, teachers and just kind of get a real rounded story so people can kind of see the needs and the hopes and here’s some of the good stories and some of the things that maybe can be improved upon,” Anderson said in an interview on KRBD’s Morning Edition.

Anderson says she hopes that with these voices and personal stories, the exhibit will call about a change Ketchikan’s Indigenous community has been pushing for. Patti Green, a Saxman-based family caseworker with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, says she’s been working with tribal members to try and bolster the number of foster parents within the native community.

“I have asked questions about what’s the most important thing about, you know what, what is necessary to teach our children,” Green said, “and the number one thing they [tribal Elders] talk about is their language because their language is what connects them to their culture. And so when children are placed in non native homes, a lot of times that culture is not developed.”

Statistics from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services show that on average, 3,000 children cycle through the system every month in Alaska, some of the highest intake numbers come from Southeast Alaska. After the art opening, Anderson says there will be a community conversation with Alaska Humanities Forum where all are invited to come and have an open dialogue about the foster care system.