Nathan Jackson Named 2021 USA Fellow
By MARY KAUFFMAN
February 05, 2021
Artists are selected for their impact in their genre, their body of work, and in Jackson's case as a culture bearer. In the culture bearers category, United States Artists honors artists like Jackson who celebrate their communities’ values and teach us how to cultivate our histories with care.
The 2021 USA Fellows class is the largest in the organization’s 15-year history. USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all stages of their careers and from all areas of the country through a rigorous nomination and panel selection process. Fellowships are given in the following disciplines: Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing.
In a comment on the United States Artists' website, Jackson wrote, "Saxman Native Village is special for me as it has been a main place for me to carve for the past thirty-five years, doing projects for the Totem Park there and the Tribal House. It's been special since they have tours every summer, and I have been able to share my culture with visitors from all over the US and even worldwide. This year was very different as there were no tours whatsoever, too quiet."
Jackson's unrestricted $50,000 cash award was generously supported by the Rasmuson Foundation.
"We are grateful for every artist whose artmaking, music, writing, and more is helping us to navigate and cope through this harrowing time in our country," said USA President & CEO Deana Haggag.
Haggag said, “The 2021 USA Fellows are a testament to the power of art in shaping the world around us and navigating its complexities. Artists do so much for our communities, and we are grateful to be able to support these sixty incredible practitioners and welcome them into the United States Artists Fellowship.”
“Artists are at the core of their communities, and as the difficulties of the past year have demonstrated, it is more important than ever that we continue to support individual artists,” said Ed Henry, USA Board Chair.
Henry said, “And as we continue to meet the challenges 2021 will bring, it is also clear that USA must remain nimble and responsive to the needs of the field, which is why we are honored to be able to support the largest cohort in our history with sixty artists this year.”
Jackson was born into the Sockeye Clan on the Raven side of the Chilkoot-Tlingit tribe. Jackson was raised in Southeastern Alaska, spending most of his time in the Haines area. Much of his early education in his Tlingit heritage was conducted by his clan uncle and grandfather.
Upon completion of his military service in Germany in 1959, he returned to Alaska. After two years of carving and commercial fishing, he enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. There he specialized in fabric design, silk screen, and graphics.
In 1964, he returned to Haines, where he began working with Alaska Indian Arts and taught woodblock and silk-screen techniques for Manpower Development. He also participated as a member of the Chilkat Dancers. Since 1967, he has been a freelance artist doing traditional-style woodcarving, jewelry, and design, usually on a commission basis.
He has been an instructor in woodcarving and design at the Alaska State Museum, Sheldon Jackson College, Totem Heritage Center, and the University of Alaska. Jackson has also had several apprentices working under him in conjunction with the Native Apprenticeship Program, sponsored by Alaska State Council on the Arts, as well as with a totem project in Saxman, a native village two miles south of Ketchikan.
At this point in his career, in addition to masks and smaller items, Jackson has carved more than 50 totem poles, some in international locations and museums, for both public art and private collections.
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