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SHI, USA, School Districts, sign agreements to advance Northwest Coast Art, Math training

Program to be offered in Juneau, Klawock and Hoonah


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Photo by Nobu Koch, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute

SHI President Rosita Worl and UAS Chancellor Richard Caulfield signing the memorandum of agreement in late November 2017.

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has signed memorandums of agreement with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) and school districts in Juneau, Klawock and Hoonah to teach Northwest Coast (NWC) art, the world-renowned legacy of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.
 
The program, Sharing Our Box of Treasures, is part of SHI’s effort to make Juneau the NWC arts capital of the world, to galvanize the region’s economy and to designate NWC art as a national treasure.  
 
Through the program, partners will develop a two-year associate’s degree program in Northwest Coast (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 SHI; and produce a sustainability plan for the next phase of expansion.
 
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.
 
"UAS is pleased to partner with SHI and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in building a career pathway for emerging Northwest Coast artists,” said UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield. “This partnership builds on the distinctive artistic and cultural traditions of Southeast Alaska, and will lead to new economic opportunities for our communities and our region."
 
UAS is currently recruiting for a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Northwest Coast Native Arts to lead the program and will soon recruit for a project coordinator.
 
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. 
 
Sharing Our Box of Treasures is funded through a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Alaska Native Education Program.
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