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SHI signs landmark agreement with IAIA, UAS to advance Northwest Coast art


Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has entered into a three-way partnership with the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to provide enhanced and expanded Northwest Coast (NWC) art programs and opportunities for Alaska students.

On Wednesday, the three organizations signed a Memorandum of Agreement that will be used to design and implement a formal education plan that includes an expansion of the existing NWC art program at UAS, and a collaborative relationship with IAIA that will allow UAS students to transfer to the Santa Fe campus to further their art studies.

Dr. Robert Martin, President of the Institute of American Indian Arts and a member of the Cherokee Nation, said that IAIA currently has an average of 10 Alaska Native students enrolled per semester, out of around 475, and he is hoping to see that number triple.
“We’ve had a long history of Alaska Native students in IAIA and this is going to give us an opportunity to increase those numbers dramatically,” Martin said.
“It also gives us an opportunity to collaborate more with Sealaska Heritage Institute as well as the University of Alaska Southeast to enhance Northwest Coast art education …. It’s a win win win for all three organizations.”
IAIA was established by Congress in 1986 as one of only three Congressionally-chartered colleges. IAIA is the only four-year degree fine arts institution in the country devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts.
Currently, UAS offers a certificate in NWC art, and is in the process of developing a two-year degree. Through a plan outlined in the MOA, students who have completed two years of study at UAS may then transfer to IAIA to complete a four-year degree.
Richard A. Caulfield, Chancellor of UAS, said the partnership represents a renewed commitment to the Northwest Coast arts program.
“At UAS we’ve long wanted to have a more robust NWC arts program. We can’t do this alone. We have to work in partnership with those who have the cultural knowledge and understanding,” Caulfield said.
“This agreement helps to ensure the perpetuation and advancement of Northwest Coast art through the development of a 2+2 educational partnership where students begin at UAS, earn a bachelor’s degree in indigenous arts at IAIA, and then come home to contribute to our communities."
SHI will work with both educational institutions to provide expertise on NWC art, culture and history. Initiatives include providing visiting artists a working space in the Walter Soboleff Building, developing a Visiting Art Scholars Program for graduate students and researchers, providing access to SHI’s archives and art collections, and seeking guidance from SHI’s Native Artist Committee on the direction and development of arts programming. SHI will also partner with UAS and IAIA to seek funding that benefits NWC arts.
“Santa Fe over nearly one-hundred years has developed the world’s model for advancing Southwest Indian art with the founding of the IAIA and the city’s annual Indian Art Market, which draws more than 100,000 people. We have long sought to emulate this model to advance Northwest Coast art, which should be designated a national treasure,” said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“This agreement helps to ensure the perpetuation and advancement of Northwest Coast art through the development of a four-year degree program.”
Caulfield said UAS faculty member Dr. Mique’l Dangeli has been instrumental in moving the NWC arts program forward in Southeast since her arrival in August.
“I give a lot of credit for this to Dr. Mique’l Dangeli, our new faculty member, who is really taking a leadership role in the development of the NWC arts program at UAS,” Caulfield said.
Dr. Dangeli, a member of the Tsimshian Lax̱sgiik (Eagle Clan) of Metlakatla, said that UAS is currently restructuring the entire NWC art program, so the timing of the MOA is ideal.
“What this partnership does is it allows us to dream up and to organize and to restructure the program even further, to look at creating the program in a way to where at the end of two years, our students will be prepared to transfer to the Institute of American Indian Arts for their four-year degree and expand their knowledge and practice of NWC art … There they can branch out and learn new mediums, learn more about exhibition practices, and connect their work to larger ideas and ways of creating art.”
“I’m very excited about the future of NWC art for our students,” said Dangeli, who teaches Sm’algya̱x (Tsimshian language). “Everything that I put forward in terms of my contribution to the MOA has been about the future of our students, and I think that we all have that in mind.”
Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, who sat in on part of the MOA agreement meeting Wednesday, said he hoped to see more Native input and participation in university leadership as a result of the MOA.
“There needs to be passion in the room … Right now we have the ability to begin fundamental changes in the philosophy and attitude of those who need this university.”
In addition to representing an exciting new partnership for SHI, the MOA dovetails with SHI’s vision for Juneau as a NWC arts capital supporting the region. This includes training new and established NWC artists, teaching NWC art in the schools, ensuring excellence of NWC art formline, expanding the NWC art market, and integrating NWC art into public places.
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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