Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Area museums popular with state grantee


February 7, 2019

Artist Tresham Gregg and Hammer Museum board member Michael Marks with Gregg's "Eagle Hammer."

Three of the eight Alaska museums selected to receive money aimed at supporting local artists are in the Chilkat Valley.

Museums Alaska, a statewide nonprofit, awards Rasmuson Foundation funding in an effort to encourage museums to buy work from local artists, said Museums Alaska executive director Della Hall.

Grants to Haines and Kulwan totaled more than $20,000 and were used to purchase works from 10 artists, more than any one of the other communities that applied.

"The program is geared to help support the artists in Alaska and help keep them in Alaska," said Jim Heaton, whose carved eagle frontlet and bear paw dance rattle were purchased by Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center for $8,000.

Heaton carved the pieces from a hemlock tree harvested from Lutak. Jilkaat Kwaan Dancers will use his carvings in their performances, Heaton said.

The Haines Sheldon Museum applied for the largest grant among local museums, $11,550 to acquire 12 pieces from eight artists. Director Helen Alten said that the museum partnered with the Alaska Arts Confluence to call on local artists to submit their works.

The museum board chose the pieces based on artistic merit. The pieces depict the culture and imagery of the Chilkat Valley.

Fisherman and artist Lindsey Johnson's piece "Still Ocean Bright" was selected by the museum board for $300. The coho acrylic and glitter print on dyed cotton mimics the Japanese style, gyotaku, of printing fish. "Ocean Bright salutes the vigor of that coho salmon at a time when the big summer runs are winding down to boat-bound harvesters," Johnson wrote in her proposal submitted to the museum.

The Hammer Museum's newest acquisition, "Eagle Hammer," is a piece Tresham Gregg carved last spring from Alaska red birch and showcased at the museum for May's First Friday event.

The piece depicts a flying eagle in place of a hammer head, with the bird's downward flapping wings leading into a striated handle and rough-cut burl wood base.

Feedback from visitors inspired the Hammer Museum's collections committee to apply for an $800 grant to adopt the art into the museum's permanent collection. "It's not often that an artistic hammer comes up that's created by someone in Alaska that we have the ability to purchase," board member Michael Marks said.

Gregg said his work often draws connections between wild animals and the spiritual realm. "The Tlingits would often carve spirit connections into their halibut clubs for greater power and appeasement of the spirits," Gregg said this week.

Museum secretary Michael Marks said that holding the artwork in one's hands transferred the power of the eagle to its recipient.

The American Bald Eagle Foundation received $1,910 from a separate Museums Alaska grant to build a display case that will protect the mounted raptor collection, said museum coordinator Katie Dickerson.

The Haines Sheldon Museum also bought works from Donna Catotti, Debi Knight Kennedy, Beverly Schupp, Katie Craney, Megan Morehouse, Andrea Nelson and Joe Ordóñez.


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