Sealaska Heritage Institute, university partner for new degree program

An Associate of Arts with an emphasis on Northwest Coast arts.

University of Alaska Southeast and Sealaska Heritage Institute are partnering for a new Associate of Arts degree with an emphasis on Northwest Coast arts, SHI announced.

The undergraduate program, recently unveiled in the UAS academic catalog for 2020-2021, includes a wide spectrum of classes, such as tool making, 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 in a news release.

“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 in the release. “It took years of planning, but we are here at last, and we could not be more excited.”

That effort also includes the proposed Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus that is planned for downtown Juneau.

[Assembly puts arts campus support decision on hold]

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

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 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Students who earn the degree 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.

The program also 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; Tlingit weaver Lily Hope; and other local and visiting artists.

“Northwest Coast Art holds cultural identity and is the highest level of perfected achievement,” Price said in a news release. “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.”

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