Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to unveil winners of 2020 Juried Art Show and Competition

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Native leaders propose centralization, tribal college partnership

June 9, 2020

(About the Jurors)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will announce winners of its 10th biennial Juried Art Show and Competition this week during virtual Celebration 2020 and give awards for the best pieces.

For the first time and because of the pandemic, the event will be featured virtually through an online exhibit and a video, which will be included in SHI’s virtual Celebration 2020 broadcast. The online exhibit will also feature exemplary works of Northwest Coast art from SHI’s collection.

SHI sponsors the art show in an effort to reaffirm the greatness of Northwest Coast art traditions and to promote the continued evolution of those traditions in Southeast Alaska, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“The complexity and level of workmanship evident in old pieces of Northwest Coast art made by our ancestors is astonishing.  We sponsor the competition to encourage our artists to always strive for that level of mastery and to make our ancestors proud,” Worl said.

The Juried Art Show includes 38 works by 26 artists. The artists competed for prizes in the following divisions and categories:

  • Carving and sculpture division
    • Categories:
      • Wood (masks, rattles, hooks, etc.);
      • Metal (jewelry, cast metals, etc.); and,
      • Other media (sculptural creations in other media, such as glass and cast bronze)
  • Two-dimensional and relief carving division
    • Categories:
      • Painting and drawing (on paper, canvas, drums, paddles, chests, etc.);
      • Relief-carving (painted or unpainted on paddles, chests, etc.); and,
      • Printmaking
  • Sewing division
    • Categories:
      • Skin and fur
      • Beadwork
      • Regalia
  • Weaving division
    • Categories:
      • Chilkat
      • Ravenstail
      • Basketry
  • Endangered art division
    • Categories
      • Spruce-root weaving
      • Horn spoons

This year, based on the jurors’ recommendations, SHI will award Best of Division prizes for all 5 divisions and Best of Category prizes for 12 out of the 14 Categories. SHI also will award a Best of Show prize and a Best of Formline prize, which was selected among all pieces submitted. New this year, SHI will give a President’s Award, which is granted directly by Worl to honor unique and extraordinary artwork that represents and embodies the highest standards of the Northwest Coast art tradition.

Awards will be announced near the beginning of SHI’s virtual Celebration 2020 broadcast, which begins at 7 pm on Wednesday, June 10. The program will stream on SHI’s YouTube channel and broadcast on public television’s 360North. 

About the Jurors

The institute’s Native Artist Committee, which is comprised of celebrated Northwest Coast artists who guide SHI’s art programs, recommended weaver Deborah Head, or Aanutein, and art historian Steve Henrikson to serve as jurors. Jurors reviewed the pieces blindly, meaning the names of artists who submitted pieces were not disclosed.

Deborah Head, or Aanutein, is a lifelong resident of Craig, Alaska. She is the niece of Klawock Elder Dr. Bill Demmert, Jr., and Native culture has always been at the center of her family’s life. The winner of a 2011 Rasmuson Fellowship award and a Smithsonian Institution Visiting Artist participant, Aanutein is a highly regarded cedar bark weaver with award-winning pieces represented in museum collections as well as in private and cultural ownership. In 2008, Debbie was chosen to weave the cedar mat for the interior of a bentwood cedar burial box made by Jon Rowan for the historic interment of archaeological remains of the 10,300-year-old Native hunter Shuká Kaa or “Man Before Us/” That marked the first time archaeologists worked with Native groups to return significant remains for a culturally-appropriate burial. Coming from both Tlingit and Haida cultures, she is grateful for the foundation of culture and tradition that was given to her in her early years, as Elders and other knowledgeable community members shared what they knew. Today, her work as a teacher with universities continues to light her way for learning and inspiration.

Steve Henrikson has served as curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum and adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska Southeast for more than a quarter century. In 1986, he came to Alaska as a seasonal curator at Sitka National Historical Park during a break from graduate studies at the University of Washington. Previously, he earned degrees in history and anthropology from Portland State University. Henrikson’s work and life keep him deeply engaged with Alaska art and artists, with history and history makers, and with cultures and their descendants. He preserves, researches, develops, and exhibits Alaska’s permanent collection—30,000 historical and cultural artifacts and artwork.  Henrikson is an adopted member of the Dakl’aweidí Clan (Killer Whale) clan of the Angoon Tlingit and participates in clan ceremonies. He was the 2016 winner of the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

Photo: Excerpt of a piece accepted into SHI’s virtual 2020 Juried Art Show and Competition. For a high-res version, contact