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The University of Alaska Southeast is working with Alaska Native artists and the Sealaska Heritage Institute to increase its offerings in Northwest Coast art. One of the first ways that’s visible is through classes with Tlingit and Unangan multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin, the first artist-in-residence at the University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus. He’ll teach two classes over the 2017-18 academic year, give an Evening at Egan lecture, and assist the university in developing its Northwest Coast Arts program.
UAS to develop Northwest Coast arts program 102517 AE 1 Capital City Weekly The University of Alaska Southeast is working with Alaska Native artists and the Sealaska Heritage Institute to increase its offerings in Northwest Coast art. One of the first ways that’s visible is through classes with Tlingit and Unangan multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin, the first artist-in-residence at the University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus. He’ll teach two classes over the 2017-18 academic year, give an Evening at Egan lecture, and assist the university in developing its Northwest Coast Arts program.

"I dreamt I could fly" installation of 60 porcelain arrows. Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"We Dreamt Deaf" polar bear taxidermy. Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"I Think it Goes Like This" wood, paint. Galanin said: "'I Think it Goes Like This' references decimation of indigenous knowledge and technology by colonization, and attempted reconstruction and homogenization of history and visual language. The work is a reminder of the destruction to indigenous art in mining land and culture to benefit the colonial project. The work evidences denial of sovereignty of indigenous culture by the colonial powers." Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"Ism #1." Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"Familiar Faces 1." Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"Eagle Bracelet." Repoussé, chasing and engraving. 2" x 8" Copper Eagle Bracelet with acrylic highlights. Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.


"Imaginary Indian." Installed at Trench Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, BC. Photograph by Wayne Leidenfrost. Image courtesy of Nicholas Galanin.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Story last updated at 10/24/2017 - 6:14 pm

UAS to develop Northwest Coast arts program

The University of Alaska Southeast is working with Alaska Native artists and the Sealaska Heritage Institute to increase its offerings in Northwest Coast art. One of the first ways that’s visible is through classes with Tlingit and Unangan multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin, the first artist-in-residence at the University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus. He’ll teach two classes over the 2017-18 academic year, give an Evening at Egan lecture, and assist the university in developing its Northwest Coast Arts program.

Galanin has previously taught as an adjunct professor at UAS. In 2011, he was the featured artist for Tidal Echoes, the literary and arts journal of Southeast Alaska put out through UAS. Born in Sitka, Galanin decided to pursue art as his career when he was 18, after watching his father and uncle work, he said in an interview with Tidal Echoes.

As a multi-disciplinary artist, the kind of art he creates varies. He crafts jewelry, he carves, he draws, he creates video installations and other forms of visual art, and he makes music through the experimental group Indian Agent. As Silver Jackson, he was also the force behind Sitka’s HomeSkillet Festival, which had its tenth and final year in 2015.

Galanin rejects the idea that art by indigenous people must always look “traditional,” or be in a commonly recognized form, to be considered “indigenous art.” While he does work in traditional mediums, he allows his work to become whatever it must be, he said. All forms of art — Native, Western, and many more — evolve, as they emerge from living cultures.

“I don’t set boundaries. What I do creatively … a lot of institutions or spaces or places really try to define and set out to… condense work, but it’s such a vast scape of projects. I don’t separate them myself. They all come from the same place. They come out differently through different forms of transmissions. It keeps it exciting, fresh and free for me,” he said.

“We’re all listening to our surroundings and responding,” he said of the cultural art world. “It certainly is for me. The creative world, the connection and the output…there’s freedom and a way to dialogue with communities that won’t always dialogue with you. We live in a time where we have access to quick connections in media … but it’s so easy to become isolated even in those worlds based on people’s ideas or beliefs. The creative world really does allow for engagement even when I’m not there to see it through.”

For his Evening at Egan lecture, “Unceremonially Killing, Saving and Dreaming,” Galanin will speak about the work he has created over the last 15 years, and how his work which is rooted in his connection to the land engages with contemporary culture. The lecture takes place on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Egan Lecture Hall at UAS.

“I’ve been steadily creating large bodies of diverse types of work from jewelry to conceptual video installations … this is kind of exploring and discussing a lot of the content behind some of this work and the process,” he said.

While in Juneau, Galanin said he will be the lead carver in creating a 40-foot totem pole to stand where the Douglas Indian Village once was; the village was burned in 1962 to make room for the harbor and Savikko Park.

This fall semester, he will lead a one credit course in Northwest Coast Art that introduces students to engraving as an art form. In the spring, he will teach a three credit course on tool making, and the process of forming copper art.

He will also be involved in developing a two year degree program for Northwest Coast Art.

“I’ve been hoping and working towards getting more indigenous curriculum in university settings in general. The wonderful thing about the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau is that — really important and really unique I’d say — is that there’s a language degree program. That’s really significant for our community and culture. I’d love to see an expansion of this cross over (get) into other forms like the visual arts as well. Visual arts is another form, another language by itself,” he said.

Galanin apprenticed under master carvers and jewelers like Will Burkhart, Louis Minard, Jay Miller, Wayne Price, and Dave Galanin. He received his BFA in jewelry design from London Guildhall University and his MFA in Indigenous Visual Arts at Massey University on New Zealand. He has been an active professional artist for more than 15 years. His work is featured in collections from around the world, places like Texas, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada. He has been in more than a dozen solo exhibitions, and even more group exhibitions. He has also received numerous awards, like the Rasmuson Individual Artist Award.

A look at the upcoming program

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield said the university is working in partnership with Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to provide classes in Northwest Coast Art. UAS joined SHI on a grant submitted to the U.S. Department of Education called “Northwest Coast Arts: Sharing Our Box of Treasure.”

“We now have a three year funded partnership under the leadership of Sealaska Heritage Institute that is focusing on expanding opportunities for Northwest Coast Arts at the high school and college level,” Caulfield said.

The goals for that grant, he said, are creating the two-year associate of arts program in Northwest Coast art, “expanding high school to college career pathways in Northwest Coast Arts,” and using Northwest Coast art both as a vehicle to better the college’s Alaska Native student retention and “math achievement.” They also hope, he said, to “develop a long sustainability plan to continue offering Northwest Coast Arts in the future.”

The artist in residency program is part of that push for more Northwest Coast Arts. Caulfield said Galanin and SHI will help identify other artists who are willing and able to be involved in the program. As of now, there are no other artists lined up for the residency after Galanin, as the grant has just recently been approved.

The new program might be ready sometime in the 2018/19 academic year, but there are no definite dates as of yet, Caulfield said. However, he does know that UAS plans to offer Northwest Coast art and indigenous language classes to non-credit seeking students at a reduced rate, just as it currently offers Tlingit language classes at a reduced rate.

For more information on Northwest Coast Art classes, call (907) 796-6100.

Clara Miller is a staff writer for Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at clara.miller@capweek.com.