SARAH GIBSON

Sarah Gibson is a journalist and musician who, until a recent move to New York City, lived as close to the woods as possible. Sarah graduated from Brown University, where she studied History, Africana Studies, and Oral History. During college, she created a multimedia installation based on the interviews of former sharecroppers and migrant workers on her family's farm in Kentucky, recorded ancient folk songs in the Republic of Georgia, and learned from documentary filmmakers in central Appalachia.


After college, Sarah worked on educational and media programs for farmworker and food justice organizations in North Carolina. She is now pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia Journalism School, with a focus on radio. Sarah likes to have an audio recorder with her at all times, which has lead to impromptu recordings of fiddlers in Kentucky and the famous eagles of Sitka. She was raised by Southern parents in tiny Vermont town with zero stoplights, one big lake, and innumerable ski trails. She can’t wait get back to the mossy forests and salmon-filled rivers of Southeast Alaska.

NATHANIEL BARNETT

Nathaniel Barnett is a composer, conductor, and tenor from Rochester, New York. He graduated from Yale University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, where his composition, A Peace Prayer, was awarded the Beekman Cannon Prize for best senior project in music. Since graduating, he has directed choral activities at the Birch Wathen Lenox School in New York and worked as a freelance music director and tenor throughout the city.

Nathaniel is the co-founder and co-director of the Uncommon Music Festival, an annual festival in Sitka, Alaska that is dedicated to breaking the boundaries of standard concert repertoire with performances of early music, contemporary music, and under-performed repertoire of any age. Check them out at uncommonmusicfest.org.

ELLIE SCHMIDT

Ellie is a visual artist and filmmaker working loosely from Sitka ever since she participated in the Fellows Program. She has yet to spend an entire winter in Alaska but has been lucky to work recently with local filmmakers including the inimitable Ellen Frankenstein and a documentary about transboundary mining in B.C. Ellie has also worked on a salmon troller and a cucumber dive boat, where she has learned about local fisheries politics and heard many wonderful stories. Ellie is especially enamored with the coastal marine life of Southeast Alaska, taking every chance she can to snorkel in the kelp forests and salmon streams when she’s not cleaning salmon or slicing cucumbers. A project based artist, she works currently in various mediums from large-scale woodcuts to experimental film and oil painting. Ellie is currently working on a short documentary about the herring fishery in Sitka, as well as a ongoing project of daily drawings to raise money for disenfranchised women’s advocacy groups and environmental agencies. Her favorite project, however, is a eco-feminist zine that she started recently with some of her snorkel friends in Sitka, called the Selkie Zine. 

RAMONA RING

Ramona Ring is a freelance illustrator based in Hamburg, Germany. Growing up in Nuremberg she soon discovered her passion for creating images, so she decided to take up studies in illustration and graphic design. After dropping out of college with a bachelor's degree she landed a major commission from ZEITmagazin and gained a foot in the door to a career in editorial illustration. She’s now working for a various range of clients worldwide, mainly in the fields of editorial and book illustration, advertising and graphic novel. Besides that she’s finishing up her master studies at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg with a children’s book that depicts a mythical story about an anemone and its transformation to fog. She’s still working on the graphic novel she started during the Sitka Fellows Program in 2015 and another children’s book she’s creating together with Nate Barnett. 

JOHN-HENRY HECKENDORN

John-Henry Heckendorn of Anchorage recently joined Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s office as Special Assistant to the Governor and Chief of Staff. Heckendorn has worked in Alaska politics and communications for five years and in 2015 he founded communications firm Ship Creek Group LLC with two partners, writing the business plan during his Sitka Fellowship that summer. Heckendorn went on from Sitka to set an undefeated record across 13 Alaska political campaigns in 2015 and 2016, recognized in an end of year awards roundup as Alaska's Best Political Consultant. His portfolio also includes successful advocacy and public relations projects on issues such as fisheries access, wildfire management, and healthcare. Heckendorn graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington in 2012 with a bachelor of arts in economics and politics, and was an All-American and national championship runner-up in intercollegiate debate.

DJ THIELKE

D.J. Thielke began writing as a theater student at the High School for the Performing Arts of Houston, Texas, before going on to study playwriting, screenwriting, and fiction at the University of Southern California. After a year living in London, Edinburgh, and New York, she then went on to receive an MFA in fiction from Vanderbilt University. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Arts&Letters, The Cincinnati Review, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Bat City Review, and Crazyhorse, among others, and she has worked for such nationally recognized magazines as The Paris Review and Narrative Magazine, as well as served as Editor-in-Chief for The Nashville Review. For the past few years, she has been at work on a story collection while teaching creative writing and collecting long job titles as the 2013-2014 James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, at the University of Wisconsin; the inaugural fall 2014 Stone Court Writer-in-Residence in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and as the 2015-2016 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Fiction at Colgate University.