A Journey To What Matters and ASCA Partnership
ARTShops 2022 William Bolton in Metlakatla
Tsimshian Panel Making

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.

During this ARTShop project participants in Metlakatla learned the process of milling and squaring up red cedar boards for the purpose of gluing them together to make a large panel, and how to design a large formline art project and to design it for carving, which is different from just a painted design. They also learned how to select boards that are best for carving. Participants learned how to make domed ovoids which gives this artform its unique look and is an important part of relief carved formline.  

The participants were part of the decision-making process to decide on the theme and what each panel would depict. We chose the salmon cycle, as Metlakatla is a fishing village and salmon is culturally connected to the Tsimshian people. Each panel depicts one point in the life of a salmon, beginning with the egg nestled among the gravel in the stream, a smelt leaving the stream to go to sea, an adult returning from the ocean and a spawned out salmon decaying its body nourishing the environment so the next generation has the best chance of surviving.  

This experience gave the participants an opportunity that they would not have had normally, it gave them the opportunity to learn new skills to add to their creative knowledge of the art form. This opportunity of time, materials, access to tools, and a place to work has made this project a success, not to mention how inspired the participants were in creating something that they helped bring to life. Our future plans are to have a local showing of our work.