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Program effort to make Juneau center for Northwest Coast art

May 28, 2013

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will showcase contemporary masterpieces of Northwest Coast art at its first art auction in an effort to promote Native art, raise funds for construction of the Walter Soboleff Center and to establish Juneau as the capital of Northwest Coast art.

SHI’s premier Tináa Art Auction already has pledges from some of the biggest names in Northwest Coast art, said SHI President Rosita Worl, who hopes the event will educate people about fine Native art from the Northwest Coast area.

“People from everywhere are going to come and learn about our art and our artists,” Worl said.

The auction will be held February 1, 2014. Established Northwest Coast artists who want to participate in the auction should contact SHI now.

SHI’s Native Artist Committee – comprised of Nathan Jackson, Delores Churchill, Nicholas Galanin, and Steve Brown – invited artists from a wide range of mediums to donate a unique piece of art to the auction. The committee’s members, all internationally-renown artists themselves, are also each donating artwork.

Some pieces have already been pledged by other internationally-known artists, including Tlingit artist Preston Singletary and Tsimshian carver David Boxley.

Boxley will donate a large bentwood box, which will be constructed by his son Zach, and then designed, carved, and painted by David. Singletary will be donating a 19-inch totem made of blown and sandcarved glass. Both point to the late Tlingit leader Walter
Soboleff as an inspiration and the future Walter Soboleff Center as a cultural landmark.

“The idea that the place is going to be named after him is perfect. All our people – Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian – looked up to him,” said Boxley. “The potential of the Walter Soboleff Center is to be a source of pride, gathering, and inspiration to artists, dancers, and historians who are coming along and coming after us.”

Singletary sees his art, which blends his cultural background with the material of glass, as bringing a new dimension to cultural art.

“It also reflects new directions from within the culture, and shows us that we can interpret the stories through new materials,” Singletary said. “So I have offered a piece of my glass sculpture to be used as a way of fundraising for the Walter Soboleff Center. I see this as an honor and a duty.”

The auction is patterned after the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, which SHI has studied in recent years. That market, which includes an annual art auction, has created worldwide demand and appreciation of southwest Indian art, said SHI President Rosita ­Worl, noting the same can be done for Northwest Coast art in the capital city.

“Santa Fe is a community where the whole town is decorated with Native art. And I think what it's done for the community is really promoted an appreciation of Native art and Native people, and I think that's what we're hopeful of creating here in Juneau,” Worl said.

The Walter Soboleff Center will house an array of art programs, including artist-in-residencies, exhibit space, artist demonstrations, and programs to perpetuate Northwest Coast arts. SHI is in its final fundraising push to raise funds to build the facility. SHI’s fundraising effort is spearheaded by the Walter Soboleff Center Capital Campaign Committee, which is chaired by Byron Mallott. The Tlingit word “tináa” represents a copper shield, which was a symbol of wealth and trade.

To find out more about sponsorships and tickets, or to receive a sneak preview auction catalog in December, visit Artists interested in receiving an invitation to donate, or who would like to nominate an artist to donate, may contact Christy Eriksen at 907-586-9262.

Sealaska Heritage Institute was 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: SHI President, Rosita Worl, 907.463.4844