SHI, UAS and IAIA partner to offer Northwest Coast art education

Haida artist Robert Davidson's metal panel "Greatest Echo" adorns the front of the Walter Soboleff Building. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)
The offices of the Sealaska Heritage Institute are in the Walter Soboleff Building in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Sealaska Heritage Institute has partnered with the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of Alaska Southeast to provide enhanced and expanded Northwest Coast art programs and opportunities for Alaska students.

The three organizations signed a memorandum of agreement last Wednesday that will be used to design and implement a formal education plan.

“It’s part of a broader effort to really highlight Northwest Coast art, and to really make it something that’s attractive, that people want to come to Alaska to see,” said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute. “In order to do that, we need to make sure we have practicing artists.”

Worl said the initial focus will be for students to complete a two-year program at the University of Alaska Southeast in Northwest Coast arts. Then, those students could transfer to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe for further study.

“And we want our students to have a good grounding in Northwest Coast art, but we also want them to be exposed to the broader creativity of art,” Worl said. “We want them to be able to work in different kinds of media – glass, tapestry – and IAIA does have programs where its students study in different countries.”

UAS hired Mique’l Dangeli in August to teach Northwest Coast art history. Worl said Dangeli, who is originally from Metlaktla, will be instrumental in expanding the program at the university.

“She’ll be recruiting others to teach other Northwest Coast arts. I understand her husband is going to be coming up and teaching a class as well. But really, at UAS, it is yet to be broadened.”

Worl said SHI currently provides Northwest Coast art education to elementary and secondary school students, but will expand that program. She said giving students the fundamentals at a young age will better prepare them for college courses.

“We’ve been trying to cultivate the arts already in our schools and in our communities, so I think they will have a cadre of students who are interested in Northwest Coast arts.”

Classes in Northwest Coast art are offered in Ketchikan through the Totem Heritage Center. UAS students can receive college credits for those courses. Worl said details are being worked out, but believes these classes will be included in the degree program.

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