Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: May 16th, 2022

Facility to officially open during Celebration in June

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will hold a grand opening for the Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in June during its biennial dance-and-culture festival, Celebration.

The opening will include the unveiling of the new Sealaska Cultural Values Totem Pole, a rare and massive piece carved on all sides and the first one of its kind in Alaska. The totem, made by Haida artist TJ Young with assistance from Tlingit and Tsimshian carvers, will represent all three tribes of Southeast Alaska and the four core cultural values that guide SHI programs.

The event will mark a huge milestone in SHI’s quest to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital and to declare Northwest Coast arts a national treasure, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“With the opening of the campus, the unveiling of the totem pole and all of our other work to perpetuate and promote our ancient art forms, we declare Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital,” Worl said. “We have worked for years to bring this moment to fruition, and the event will mark a new chapter in revealing the power and vibrancy of our art forms to the world.”

The construction of SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building was phase one of the institute’s vision to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital, and the campus is phase two.

The campus, which encompasses approximately 6,000 square feet, houses indoor and outdoor  space for artists to make monumental Northwest Coast art pieces, such as totem poles and canoes; classrooms for art programming and instruction in areas such as basketry, textiles and print making; an art library, and space for artists-in-residence and faculty. The covered outdoor area will be used for performances, Native art markets and public gatherings.

Instruction will be offered for both non-credit and credit for students seeking art degrees through SHI partners, the University of Alaska Southeast and the Institute of American Indian Arts. It will also have capabilities for distance learning.

In May, crews installed on the campus building monumental art, which was based on the original painting Greatest Echo by Haida master artist Robert Davidson. He donated the piece to help raise funds to build the Walter Soboleff Building, which bears a similar design on its façade.

The campus building was designed to evoke of a series of bentwood boxes.

“As with the Walter Soboleff Building, we strove to build a work of art that befits the great traditions of our ancestors. We have taken an ancient art form and rendered it on metal in a modern way, and we have created monumental bentwood boxes. To me, it expresses the antiquity of our culture but in a new and vibrant way,” Worl said.

The grand opening is scheduled at noon, Wednesday, June 8. SHI welcomes the public to attend. The event will be live streamed by SHI.

SHI also plans to install five monumental bronze masks representing Alaska’s major cultural groups called Faces of Alaska at the campus. In addition, SHI last year secured funding to commission ten totem poles that will comprise part of Kootéeyaa Deiyí (Totem Pole Trail) along the downtown Juneau waterfront. The Totem Trail project, which is phase three of SHI’s plan to make Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital, calls for a total of 30 totem poles.

The $2.9 million grant from the Mellon Foundation will allow SHI to hire Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian master artists in Juneau and villages across Southeast Alaska to carve the poles, which will be raised in 2023.

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: Kathy Dye, SHI Media and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. Photo by Kai Monture, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute. Note: Media outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher resolution image, contact

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