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.
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.”
Before 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.
“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.”
In 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.
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.
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.