Sealaska Heritage Institute has entered into a three-way partnership with the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of Alaska Southeast to provide enhanced and expanded Northwest Coast art programs and opportunities for Alaska students.
The three organizations signed a Memorandum of Agreement last Wednesday that will be used to design and implement a formal education plan.
Rosita Worl is the president of Sealaska Heritage Institute.
“It’s part of a broader effort to really highlight Northwest Coast art, and to really make it something that’s attractive, that people want to come to Alaska to see. In order to do that, we need to make sure we have practicing artists.”
Worl says the initial focus will be for students to complete a two-year program at the University of Alaska Southeast in Northwest Coast arts. Students can then transfer to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe for further study.
“And we want our students to have a good grounding in Northwest Coast art, but we also want them to be exposed to the broader creativity of art. We want them to be able to work in different kinds of media – glass, tapestry – and IAIA does have programs where its students study in different countries.”
UAS hired Dr. Mique’l Dangeli in August to teach Northwest Coast art history. Worl says Dangeli, who is originally from Metlaktla, will be instrumental in expanding the program at the university.
“She’ll be recruiting others to teach other Northwest Coast arts. I understand her husband is going to be coming up and teaching a class as well. But really, at UAS, it is yet to be broadened.”
Worl says SHI currently provides Northwest Coast art education to elementary and secondary school students, but will expand that program. She says giving students the fundamentals at a young age will better prepare them for college courses.
“We’ve been trying to cultivate the arts already in our schools and in our communities, so I think they will have a cadre of students who are interested in Northwest Coast arts.”
Classes in Northwest Coast Art are offered in Ketchikan through the Totem Heritage Center. UAS students can receive college credits for those courses. Worl says details are still being worked out, but believes these classes will be included in the degree program.