Sealaska Heritage


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January 8, 2013

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will hold a series of design workshops in communities throughout Southeast Alaska in an effort to ensure young artists are learning formline—the basis of Northwest Coast art.

The first workshop, scheduled Jan. 12-13 in Juneau, will be taught by Lance Twitchell, and the program will run through May in ten communities.

The goal of the workshops is to revitalize interest in formline design, a term that describes the complex designs, such as ovoids and split Us, that are the underlying components of the distinctive Northwest Coast art, and to ensure people are learning the designs correctly, said SHI Arts Director Rico Worl.

“There have been a number of master artists who have commented on a bit of decline in the integrity of formline design and so we’ve been directed by our Native Artist Committee to focus on helping to improve the quality of the formline,” said Worl.

The Native Artist Committee is a panel of artists and art historians founded by SHI to guide the institute on its art programs.

The workshops are part of SHI's Jinéit (handmade) Art Academy. Another goal is to foster more Native artists who are able to teach formline.

“We have a lot of great artists in Southeast Alaska but not all of them have the technical skills for teaching, and it’s really important that we give these skills to the artists so that we can provide the training to our youth,” Worl said.

Another goal is to incorporate Native art classes into public schools by collaborating with Native artists and K-12 teachers, said Worl, noting he hopes teachers will participate in the upcoming workshops.

The workshops will be offered in Juneau, Yakutat, Haines, Hydaburg, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Craig, Hoonah and Angoon. They will be taught by Lance Twitchell, Gordon Greenwald, Ronnie Fairbanks and Nathan Jackson. The workshops will be free of charge and open to everyone, but Sealaska shareholders will be given a preference if space is limited.

The institute is still finalizing dates and times. The final schedule will be posted online. The Juneau workshop is scheduled 12-5, Jan. 12-13, at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). To register, contact Shaadoo’tlaa at, 907.586.9129.

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: Rico Worl, Arts Director, 907.586.9265