Dec. 22, 2017
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the Klawock City School District have signed a memorandum of agreement to help develop the district’s existing elective Northwest Coast (NWC) art courses for high school students into a career pathways course over a three-year period.
The program, Sharing Our Box of Treasures, is part of SHI’s effort to galvanize the region’s economy, perpetuate NWC art and to designate it as a national treasure.
The effort is funded through a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Alaska Native Education Program, and as part of the program, similar agreements have been signed with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), the Juneau School District and the Hoonah School District.
Through the program, partners will develop a two-year associate’s degree program in NWC art at UAS and award scholarships to applicants; expand the Juneau Fine Arts Career Pathway program to include a focus on NWC art and field-test courses in four high schools in partner communities; increase current retention rates and academic performance in math of Alaska Native high school students by integrating NWC art into math courses; document development and implementation of NWC art and culture programs at UAS and Sealaska Heritage; and produce a sustainability plan for the next phase of expansion.
SHI’s art staff recently traveled to Klawock to meet with core project team members Superintendent Jim Holien, Native arts teacher Jon Rowan and administrator Eva Rowan. SHI staff learned about current and past efforts by Rowan and the school district to teach NWC arts to Klawock’s youth and discussed how to build on these efforts as part of the partnership and grant program.
SHI staff also presented Rowan and Holien with a check to help fund staffing, supplies, tools and instruction needed to support the project.
The program, in part, builds on SHI’s program to teach math concepts to Alaska Native students through ancient NWC art practices. The institute has partnered with national leaders in the field in recent years and successfully taught difficult math concepts through art practices such as weaving and carving.
Sharing Our Box of Treasures also supports a recent agreement between SHI, UAS and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to establish a four-year NWC art program, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“This new program will bolster our efforts to establish a two-year NWC art program at UAS and ultimately a four-year degree program in NWC art at IAIA. We are setting up the framework through which artisans can earn a bachelor’s degree and make a living in the arts while perpetuating our ancient art practices,” Worl said.
The program, which will kick off in spring of 2018, will include community NWC art workshops offered through SHI in Juneau, Klawock and Hoonah through which participants may earn university credit; summer math and NWC art training for teachers, who will be eligible to earn continuing education credits; summer NWC art and leadership academies for high school students; and training by visiting artists, scholars and elders in schools. The award-winning Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin is currently the visiting artist at UAS and will teach classes for the program.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy 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. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116
Caption: Klawock School District receives the first partial funding to help pay for staffing, supplies, tools, and instruction needed to support the project. Left to right: Jon Rowan, Jim Holien, Mary Richey, Kari Groven. Photo by Eva Rowan