ARTShops 2020 Bentwood Box Making Class
Story by Robert Mills
The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs.
Thanks to the CIRI Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts for supporting a Bentwood Box making class in Kake, AK through the ARTShop program. Although COVID prevented the class from happening in person in 2020, I was able to make the class happen in 2021. Bentwood Boxes were once prevalent and highly valuable trade items up and down the Northwest Coast. Due to the many facets of colonization, many of those boxes have been looted and now exist in institutions around the world.
Worst yet, the practice of making them ceased to exist in some communities. With the class in Kake, we hope to begin making these beautiful items again to promote cultural vibrancy, healthy learning environments, and continue the technology for generations to come. We were able to have many kids attend the class as well as people who are teaching in the community, so hopefully the practice continues to perpetuate itself.