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Alaska Native ethnographic collection to be displayed, explained

Aug. 6, 2013

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a public viewing during the Santa Fe Indian Market in its continuing effort to familiarize collectors with Northwest Coast art—some of the most distinctive and unique art in the world.

The event will include a display of the institute’s ethnographic collection and staff will be on hand to explain the pieces’ significance to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures—especially why some objects are considered sacred.

“We have great ethnographic collections and we’re just going to be selecting a few pieces,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “Some of them have sacred dimensions to them and we want to explain to the people that ‘Yes, we do have art but it has this cultural meaning as well.’ ”

The event is scheduled 2-4 pm, Thursday, Aug. 15, at the Gallery Room of the Eldorado Hotel located at 309 W. San Francisco St. near the market. The event is free. Shortly after the public viewing, SHI will hold a private reception, which will be co-hosted by the renowned Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary.

This is the third year SHI has brought Alaska Native art and culture to the market, though the institute will not sponsor a dance group and artist tables this year due to a lack of funds. SHI is sponsoring an event on a smaller scale to maintain a connection with the market’s collectors, Worl said.

“We felt it was really important to go to Santa Fe to maintain continuity and to have a presence in the center of Native American art that attracts people who love and prize Native art,” said Worl, noting the viewing will include old and contemporary pieces.

The institute is trying to create an annual art market on a similar scale in Juneau, Alaska, where SHI is located, and staff will continue to learn how the Santa Fe market operates on this trip. SHI also is sponsoring its first art auction in February, and staff has been preparing by observing the Santa Fe art auction held during the market. SHI’s Tináa Art Auction will be held in Juneau and include pieces by some of the biggest names in Northwest Coast art. In addition, SHI sells Northwest Coast art through its store, Jinéit, and proceeds fund the institute’s educational programs for Native people and the general public.

The Santa Fe Indian Market over the past 90 years has been instrumental in creating worldwide demand for Southwest Indian art. The two-day market, scheduled Aug. 17-18, is operated by the nonprofit Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), which invited SHI to participate. The market draws nearly 100,000 patrons.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.


CONTACT: Rosita Worl, 907-463-4844