It was a quiet library as students bent over sketchbooks and concentrated on drawing Alaska Native designs including an eagle, wolf and killer whale.
They were part of geometry and art classes at Thunder Mountain High School where Tsimshian artist and teacher Abel Ryan was a guest instructor during the week of March 13. Almost 140 students were able to receive four lessons from Ryan throughout the week involving Northwest Coast formline design. This event was inspired by the Sealaska Heritage Institute inservice classes offered to teachers last August when geometry teachers decided to plan similar training sessions for their students during the school year.
While some students had tried formline design in the past, for others it was completely new.
“I enjoyed learning about all of the new shapes that I didn’t even know existed,” said junior Katelyn Kohuth. “I liked learning about the specific patterns used for each of the body parts.”
Sophomore Tenlee Roemer added: “I really liked it. I enjoyed the structure and rules formline has. I also liked listening to him laugh.”
Throughout the sessions, Ryan would erupt in a deep, Santa-Claus-like laugh.
“Even if students don’t continue trying this art form on their own they will at least be able to identify the ovoids, U shapes and trigons in the art that they see all around them. Appreciation is our goal — but many of the students have also found they are very good at formline,” said TMHS geometry teacher Carol May.
Other teachers involved were geometry teachers Mary Soltys, Amy Witt, Lai Hinckle, Alaska Native design teacher David Sheakley-Early and art teacher Angela Imboden.
This project was also supported by the Artful Teaching Project, a partnership grant with the Juneau School District and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.