Alaska Native Artist Terri Rofkar

Sitka artist Teri Rofkar, renowned for her mastery of Tlingit weaving and basketry, died Friday. I did not know Teri personally, but every time I was in the same room with her, I could feel her creative energy. She was like the sun—a glowing good presence.

terirofkarTerri died at the age of 60. She had been battling cancer for many years.

**SPECIAL MCCLATCHY-ANCHORAGE**Alaskan artist Teri Rofkar examines woven artifacts at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian Cultural Resource Center in Suiteland, Maryland, Tuesday, March 18, 2003. (AP Photo/Adele Starr)

During her 32 year career as a professional artist, she won awards that elevated her artwork to national and international acclaim, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 2009. Recipients of the fellowship are known as “living cultural treasures.”

15220033_10209059014329882_5190198466981043486_nI first became aware of Teri and her work when she was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation. Here she is sitting across from me at the award’s ceremony.

Terri RofkarBefore she was given the award, The Rasmuson Foundation shared a short documentary about Terri and her work. I really hope you will take the time to watch it. I have seen it several times, and it always inspires me. < >

And here she is receiving the award.

Terri RofkarThis is what Terri has to say about her own work.

“I am following the steps of my Ancestors, striving to recapture the woven arts of an indigenous people. The ancient ways of gathering spruce root, with respect for the tree’s life and spirit, are a rich lesson in today’s world. Traditional methods of gathering and weaving natural materials help me link past, present, and future. .. Decades of weaving have opened my eyes to the pure science that is embedded in Tlingit Art. The arts and our oral history together bring knowledge of ten thousand years of research to life. My goal is to continue the research, broadening awareness for the generations to come.”

terri-rofkar-lituay-bay-robe-photo-by-chris-arendIn January 2014, we both participated in the final Object Runway show here in Anchorage. For five years running, Alaskan artists had been walking wacky, beautiful, political, and performance art down the runway as part of this live art show. That year, Terri and Janelle Matz’s piece was about a woman warrior and her battle with breast cancer.

Terri Rofkar Woman WarriorI managed to get a blurry but energy packed photo of the model, Janelle, and Terri all together after the performance.

Janelle Matz and Terri Rofkar60 is so young.

But if you follow your head, heart, and hands as Terri has done, there will be deep gratitude at your wake. That is all we can hope for—to work to make this world a better place by our actions, our deeds, and our words.

Terri RofkarTerri has done that, and I am so grateful for her efforts.

If you would like to read more about Terri, you can. In 2015 the Juneau Empire did an exquisite write up about Terri, her work, and her creative process.  

This entry was published on December 5, 2016 at 7:25 AM. It’s filed under Art in Place, News And Events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Alaska Native Artist Terri Rofkar

  1. Beautiful. Through the One Mother Nature her work and her living leaves behind an inspiration that is woven through us, whether or not we are familiar with her. 💜

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  2. Thank you for sharing this Maria. I watched the video. I am always inspired by people who work with their hands and it amazes me what can be accomplished when you continue on working at something that seems beyond labor-intensive.

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  3. What a sweet happy soul. Yes, I watched the video! I have more time than I thought I did now.

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  4. Linda Laird on said:

    Maria, thanks for sharing about Teri and her marvelous work. God rest her soul.

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  5. thanks for sharing this, maria. in general, it feels good to get caught up with you now that school is out for the quarter. xxx goddess bless maria!

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  6. YEAH! Nancy is on Winter Break. I hope you and Izi have a wonderful holiday season. XXOO

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  7. Thanks for sharing her beautiful work. Too young to be gone. She certainly lived a life of passion for her art.

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  8. I know Mary. This is so true. She died too young, but I am grateful for what she gave us in the short time.

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