In 2000, the Northwest Arctic Borough (NWAB) launched an art purchasing and marketing program for Inupiaq arts and crafts produced in the region’s eleven villages. The purpose of the program was to encourage regional economic development by helping artists generate income through sales of their art. To this end, NWAB, NANA regional corporation, and Maniilaq, the regional nonprofit provided start-up grants to develop a revolving art purchase account within the borough.
The revolving art purchase program, now grown to about $335,300 in funds, has purchased and sold more than one million dollars worth of art since its initiation. In 2007, NWAB formed the nonprofit Sulianich Association to provide a viable marketplace for local arts and crafts, as well as a safe working environment for artists and carvers.The Northwest Arctic Borough is located in northwestern Alaska, straddling the Arctic Circle, along the Chukchi Sea. The borough’s population of approximately 7,334 is spread across 11 villages, with Kotzebue serving as the regional hub. More than 82% of residents are of Inupiaq descent and follow a subsistence lifestyle. Government, mining, health care, transportation, services and construction contribute to the economy. The Red Dog Mine 90 miles north of Kotzebue is the world's largest zinc and lead mine and provides 370 direct year-round jobs and more than a quarter of the borough's wage and salary payroll.