Youth and adult representatives of the program received the $10,000 award at a Jan. 22, Washington, D.C. ceremony. The museum is located in Haines
Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The President's Committee partners with the Institute of museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to administer the program, which was founded in 1998.
The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, and provide them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities.
The awards also highlight the contributions that historians, scholars, librarians and visual and performing arts make to families and communities by mentoring children. More than 250 nominations were received by the program in 2006.
Now in its 17th year, the Sheldon Museum's Tlingit Program offers students of Haines to explore the language, culture, art and history of the native people of the Chilkat Valley, an effort that strengthens bonds with their heritage while teaching important life lessons. The Tlingit Program includes activities and classes at the Museum, as well as in local Indian schools. Language classes, guest speakers and a wide variety of hands-on experiences engage children and teenagers while connecting them with community elders who serve as role models.
The Museum invites Tlingit artisans to instruct youth in crafting traditional spruce-root baskets, moccasins and button blankest while learning Tlingit songs, dances and drumming from the elders.
Workshops also focus on native plants and foods, geography and trade practices. Local teens regularly volunteer at the Museum, which often displays many of the students' projects. Unique events such as Tlingit week and potlatch ceremonies draw participants of all ages and cultural backgrounds into the program.
Recognizing that the disappearance of Alaska Native languages is fraying important connections to the Tlingit culture, the Sheldon Museum offers free Tlingit language classes for both children and adults. Community elders also record Tlingit words and phrases on voice cards, enabling students and the public to hear the spoken language while reviewing the Museum's collection. By giving Haines youth opportunities for creative self-expression in a supportive environment, the program instills and sense of responsibility and community connections that lay the foundation for successful lives and sustained cultural pride.
"The cultural knowledge and understanding imparted by local elders is a treasure worth keeping and sharing," said Kathryn Friedle, education coordinator at the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center. "The Museum's Tlingit language classes are invaluable in maintaining a strong cultural tie between generations of local people and their elders."
"Arts and humanities activities have a wonderful way of enabling young people to discover their unique talents and interests while forging a path to success in school and life," said Adair Margo, chairperson of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. "The Sheldon Museum has created an especially noteworthy endeavor that enables local students and adults to build on their community's rich cultural heritage as they chart a course for their own futures."
The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities bridges the interests of federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation, and helps incorporate the humanities and the arts into White House objectives.
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.