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SHI, UAS Debut New AA Degree Program with Northwest Coast Art Emphasis

Jul 30, 2020 | Education, News

Sealaska Heritage Insitute

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), in partnership with Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), for the first time is offering a new Associate of Arts (AA) degree with an emphasis on Northwest Coast (NWC) arts.

The undergraduate program, recently unveiled in the UAS academic catalog for 2020-2021, includes a wide spectrum of classes—from tool making to design, basketry, and weaving, among others.

The degree is part of SHI’s vision to make Juneau the Northwest Coast art capital of the world and to designate NWC art a national treasure, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“This marks a huge milestone in our effort to ensure the perpetuation and advancement of our ancient art practices, which are on par with the greatest art traditions in the world,” Worl said. “It took years of planning, but we are here at last, and we could not be more excited.”

The program, which will be offered this fall at the university’s Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka campuses, is part of a larger effort to establish a four-year art degree through UAS and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Students who earn an AA would have the option to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts from IAIA through a memorandum of agreement with SHI and partnership with UAS or through another university. Students could also work toward a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences or education at UAS or the broader University of Alaska system.

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In addition to art classes, the program requires students to complete courses in Alaska Native studies, Indigenous performing arts, and a language class on beginning Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian, as well as Northwest Coast design, art history and culture, art theory and practice, and career development for artists. Instructors for key courses include Wayne Price, a master Tlingit carver and UAS associate professor of Northwest Coast art, and Tlingit weaver Lily Hope, along with other local and visiting artists.

“Northwest Coast Art holds cultural identity and is the highest level of perfected achievement,” said Price. “Through preserving the high standards of our past we will grow in our connection to Northwest Coast Art and value it in, on, and around our community.”

SHI’s economic goals with art education and its planned Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in Juneau are to contribute to creative and sustainable economies for individual artists and Alaska’s rural communities; grow the demand for arts, which is already a $58 million industry in Southeast Alaska; help create more global demand for Alaska Native and Northwest Coast art; and offer expanded Native art markets to artists in Juneau and beyond.

The degree is supported by SHI through a more than $500,000 three-year grant.

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