Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Native artists, art historian chosen as jurors for art shows

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Shows to be on display during Celebration 2020

February 13, 2020


A well-known Tlingit and Haida artist and a renowned art historian have been chosen to judge Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) next Juried Art Show and Competition, which will open prior to Celebration 2020 in June.

SHI, through recommendations by its Native Artist Committee, also has named a Tlingit visual artist as juror for its Juried Youth Art Exhibit.

Weaver Deborah Head, or Aanutein, and art historian Steve Henrikson will judge the Juried Art Show and Competition, which was first held in 2002 to encourage and enhance the creation and production of Southeast Alaska Native objects of artistic value which have fallen into disuse and are becoming rare; to stimulate and enhance the quality of artistic work among our Native artisans; and to encourage the development of new forms of art of purely Southeast Alaska Native form and design.

The Juried Art Show will open June 5 at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, and winners will be announced on June 10, the first day of Celebration 2020. Celebration, a biennial dance-and-culture festival sponsored by SHI every even year, is scheduled to run through June 13.

Tlingit artist Jackson Polys will adjudicate the Juried Youth Art Exhibit, which is open to students in grades 6-12. Art accepted for the show will be on display at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center from June 5-27.  


Deborah Head, or Aanutein, is a lifelong resident of Craig, Alaska. She is the niece of Klawock Elder Dr. Bill Demmert, Jr., and Native culture has always been at the center of her family’s life. The winner of a 2011 Rasmuson Fellowship Award and a Smithsonian institution Visiting Artist participant, Aanutein is a highly regarded cedar bark weaver with award-winning pieces represented in museum collections as well as in private and cultural ownership. In 2008, Debbie was chosen to weave the cedar mat for the interior of a bentwood cedar burial box made by Jon Rowan. The box was made for the historic burial of the archaeological remains of the 10,300-year-old Native hunter Shuká Kaa or “Man Before Us.” This was the first time that archaeologists have worked with Native groups to return significant remains for culturally-appropriate burial. Aanutein has retired from being the traditional culture teacher for the school district of Craig, Alaska, and a Craig Community Association tribal board member. She has taught Native history at the University of Alaska Southeast and in 2004 was awarded the Southeast Alaska Native’s Women’s Conference award for “Outstanding Cultural Bearer” for the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp #19. Coming from both Tlingit and Haida cultures, she is grateful for the foundation of culture and tradition that was given to her in her early years, as Elders and other knowledgeable community members shared what they knew. Today, her work as a teacher with universities continues to light her way for learning and inspiration.

Steve Henrikson has served as curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum and adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska Southeast for more than a quarter century. In 1986, he came to Alaska as a seasonal curator at Sitka National Historical Park during a break from graduate studies at the University of Washington. Previously, he earned degrees in history and anthropology from Portland State University. Henrikson’s work and life keep him deeply engaged with Alaska art and artists, with history and history makers, and with cultures and their descendants. He preserves, researches, develops, and exhibits Alaska’s permanent collection—30,000 historical and cultural artifacts and artwork.  Henrikson serves on the board of the Alaska Humanities Forum and as a Tlingit Clan Conference organizer. He works extensively with Native elders, artists and cultural experts, scholars, and the general public. He and his museum colleagues also consult with communities and museums statewide on museum construction and operations, including the community of Klukwan in the planning of its new cultural center. Henrikson is an adopted member of the Dakl’aweidí Clan (Killer Whale) clan of the Angoon Tlingit and participates in clan ceremonies. He was the 2016 winner of the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities.

Jackson Polys is a visual artist who lives and works between what are currently called Alaska and New York. His work reflects examinations into the limits and viability of desires for Indigenous growth.  He began carving in Saxman with his father, Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson, from the Lukaax.ádi Clan of the Lkóot Kwáan.  He was adopted into the Dakl’aweidí Clan of the Jilkáat Kwáan and worked as a visual artist as Stephen Paul Jackson and Stron Softi. He was featured in solo exhibitions at the Alaska State Museum and the Anchorage Museum before receiving a B.A. in Art History and Anthropology and an MFA in Visual Arts, both from Columbia University, where he taught from 2016-17.  During this time, he was an advisor to Indigenous New York, the collaborative program initiative co-founded by Mohawk artist Alan Michelson and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.  He is recipient of a 2017 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Mentor Artist Fellowship.  His individual and collaborative works reside in collections at the Burke Museum, City of Ketchikan, City of Saxman, Field Museum, Goldbelt, and the Übersee Museum-Bremen and have been exhibited at Artists Space, Hercules Art/Studio Program, the James Gallery, Ketchikan Museums, and the Sundance Film Festival.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director,; 907.586.9116

Caption: Pieces at a juror session for SHI’s 2018 Juried Art Show and Competition (Photo by Nobu Koch). For a high res version, contact