Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Sealaska Heritage to offer first virtual art class

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Pilot program expected to be the new normal

April 14, 2020

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Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), in partnership with Petersburg Indian Association, will offer its first virtual art class this month through a pilot project that is expected to become the new normal for delivery of educational programming.

The class on formline design will be taught by the award-winning Tlingit artist Robert Mills on Zoom, a video platform that allows participants see and interact as a group live.

Virtual programming has become essential in a matter of weeks, and SHI’s new Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus, scheduled to break ground soon in Juneau, will be equipped to offer e-learning, which will be a key component of the institute's curriculum delivery moving forward, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, but one upside is that it has forced us to figure out how to deliver programs virtually in a short period of time. Our staff is in an intensive boot camp now learning best practices for teaching online, and this process will ultimately make us better at delivering programming in Alaska and beyond,” Worl said.

Through the class, students will learn how to construct the types of formline designs that cover the surfaces of boxes, chests, Chilkat weavings, large partition screens, house fronts and myriad smaller objects.

The workshop is scheduled April 28-May 9. The class will be limited to 15 students and, because it was originally scheduled as an in-person class in Petersburg prior to the pandemic, preference will be given to tribal members and Sealaska shareholders and descendants from Petersburg. SHI is also planning classes that are open to all, rather than limited to a single community.

SHI is also working to create full 3-credit courses via e-learning on Northwest Coast design, Northwest Coast arts history and culture and Northwest coast arts theory and practice. The courses will be offered for University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) credits and will be required courses in the new Associate of Arts (AA) degree with an emphasis in Northwest Coast arts offered through UAS in partnership with SHI.   

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,