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SHI awarded grant for art program to teach formline

Grant includes instruction for K-12 art teachers

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a grant to establish a Native art academy in an effort to ensure younger artists are learning formline—the basis of Northwest Coast art.

The $517,500 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation will help artists at all levels to learn and enhance their formline, a term that describes the complex designs, such as ovoids and split Us, which are the underlying components of the distinctive Northwest Coast art. It will also increase the number of Native artists and art instructors qualified to teach Northwest Coast art in public schools.

The three-year project, called the Jinéit (handmade) Art Academy, was developed at the urging of master artists who served as jurors in SHI’s Juried Art Show and Competition and members of the Native Artist Committee, a panel of master artists founded by SHI to guide the institute’s art programs. Since many students don’t have access to the traditional master-apprentice system of learning formline, a lot of our younger artists aren’t mastering those skills, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“The master artists felt that it was really important for us to begin teaching this throughout our entire region and to all of our artists irrespective of the media in which they produce their art,” Worl said.

The project aims to incorporate Native art classes into public schools by collaborating with Native artists and K-12 teachers, Worl said.

“Part of the project will be introducing Northwest Coast art to art teachers in the schools and then secondly to be teaching our Native artists how to teach in the schools,” Worl said.

Under the grant, SHI will hold an instructor training workshop to teach accomplished artists how to teach formline design to other artists and K-12 teachers. Selected artists who participate in the workshop will conduct formline classes in 10 communities for artists of all levels, high school students and K-12 teachers. In the last phase, SHI will hold a workshop in Juneau for selected artists and K-12 teachers to develop, field-test and evaluate Northwest Coast art kits to be used as a curriculum for future formline instruction.

The award marks the first time SHI has received a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

“We’re very honored. To be selected is just really an exciting thing for us,” Worl said.

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.

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