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SHI recruiting spruce-root weaving apprentices

Mentor-apprentice program part of effort to revitalize endangered art forms


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is recruiting artists for its new spruce-root weaving mentor-apprenticeship program, which seeks to revitalize the ancient but endangered art form.

Successful candidates will learn to gather and process spruce roots, then learn to weave through Haida artist Delores Churchill, an internationally recognized master weaver and the namesake of SHI’s artist-in-residence studio.

A spruce-root weaving program was ranked as a top priority at SHI’s first Native Artists Gathering, which brought together nearly 30 artists in 2015 who identified the most imperiled Northwest Coast Native art traditions, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“The process of gathering, preparing and weaving spruce roots is one of the most complex and labor-intensive processes of basketry weaving in Southeast Alaska Native traditions, and we are worried we will lose the knowledge on how to make spruce-root pieces,” Worl said. “This program seeks to turn things around by fostering new weavers who will also teach the practice to future generations.”

Apprentices will first learn to gather and process spruce roots with Mary Lou King and Janice Criswell from May 12-14, 2017. The workshops with Churchill are scheduled July 31-Aug. 12 and Oct. 30-Nov. 4 in Juneau, but SHI encourages weavers from other Southeast Alaska communities to participate. Preference will be given to emerging artists who have some basketry weaving experience, have the physical ability to harvest and prepare roots, can walk necessary distances to harvesting spots and are committed to passing on the knowledge to future generations.

The application deadline is April 1. The spruce-root mentor-apprenticeship program is sponsored by Sealaska Heritage Institute and supported, in part, by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and a private foundation. 

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 and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.


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