The Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center has acquired a $29,000 scrimshaw etching and a $6,000 portrait of Native elder Charlie Jimmie Sr. under grants from Alaska’s Rasmuson Foundation.

The pieces by residents Heidi Robichaud and Donna Catotti, respectively, are the most recent additions to a 24-piece collection by local artists. The collection has been acquired since 2003 with $83,901 in Rasmuson program funding.

Pieces range from paintings by Miriam Cameron and John Svenson to a Lani Hotch weaving and a Jim Heaton carved, model canoe.

“We owe a lot to Rasmuson for their generosity. The grant program has greatly improved our collection quality and what we have to show people,” said museum director Helen Alten.

Although some people think mainly of history when they consider the museum, the facility also serves as a cultural center, making the collection of locally made art appropriate, Alten said.

The $35,000 from Rasmuson in 2014 is the largest grant the local museum has received from the foundation’s Art Initiative. The scrimshaw piece also represents the most ever paid for a Haines artwork under the program.

Robichaud’s multi-colored piece, “Eye of the Creator,” is a depiction of prehistoric animals, a wolf, a raven and an Inuit scrimshander at work, carved on a 41-inch mammoth tusk and mounted on a driftwood base. It’s on display in the museum’s lower level.

“It’s her masterpiece. It took two years to make. It’s definitely the best piece she’s created,” Alten said. “This adds a significant piece by a local artist.”

In an interview, Robichaud said the piece is also one of the largest she’s carved. “I feel like it’s a masterpiece. I’m so glad it gets to stay here. The big pieces I do go into private collections and I never see them again. They just go away.”

The piece, she said, is intended to express the connection between all living things, including man and the natural world. “Most of the work I do is to express the connection between man and nature.”

Robichaud is one of about 10 commercial scrimshanders in Alaska, making art on fossil ivory in a tradition that originated with historic whaling. An etched mammoth tusk Robichaud created was named “Best in Show” at the National Scrimshaw Competition in Mystic, Conn. in 2004. That piece was priced at $75,000.

Robichaud said she dropped her asking price for “Eye of the Creator” because she was honored to be asked for the piece. “It means a lot to me to have a piece on display locally. I’m mostly known as a mental health person.”

Robichaud moved here nine years ago and works as a social worker at Lynn Canal Counseling. She also has a private mental health counseling service.

A former Gustavus resident, she was inspired to pursue scrimshaw after seeing a piece of the art in a Kodiak bar. She apprenticed under a master scrimshander in Seward and has carved thousands of pieces.

“Eye of the Creator” is one of about eight large pieces she has created and may be among the last. Due to the physical difficulty of working large pieces, she’s unlikely to make many more on mammoth tusks, Robichaud told the museum.

Besides accounting for the curvature of a tusk, Robichaud said she incorporates natural features that come with a piece of fossil ivory. “I work with patterns, grains and colors offered by the ivory. For example, a crack or dark streak might become part of a horizon or mountain and a light spot might be incorporated into a highlight or snow patch.”

Robichaud also has donated to the local museum a second scrimshaw work, made on a walrus ivory ice axe.

Artist Cattoti’s portrait of Native elder Jimmie, “Tlingit Elder Speaks,” was based on a performance he gave in 2012 to German visitors, and shows Jimmie in regalia including a crest hat, nose ring and rattle. The 24-by-32-inch oil painting has a mountain and ocean backdrop.

Museum director Alten said the most the museum has previously received for art in a year was $9,300, which paid for three pieces of art in 2003.