Arts and Entertainment

Native artist awarded a national fellowship

Israel Shotridge has lived and worked on Vashon for more than a decade.  - Courtesy Photo
Israel Shotridge has lived and worked on Vashon for more than a decade.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Vashon resident and Native artist Israel Shotridge was recently awarded one of 16 fellowships handed out nationwide by the Native Arts and Culture Foundation (NACF).

In its second year, the fellowship recognizes Native artists who are making an impact in the fields of dance, film, literature, music and traditional and visual arts. The fellowships provide artists the opportunity for study, reflection, experimentation and discovery, according to a press release, and range from $10,000 to $20,000 per artist.

Shotridge, an Alaska Native, is regionally known for his work in the Tlingit art of cedar carving. Known for the unusual depth of relief in his work, he carves traditional forms such as totem poles, bentwood boxes and masks, as well as more modern pieces such as doors. Cultural stories or songs usually inform his inspiration, which evolves into the unique contemporary compositions for cedar, maple and alder.

In an interview, Shotridge, who has lived and worked on Vashon since the late 1990s, said it was an honor to receive the fellowship. The award will allow him to focus on work he’s been interested in but hasn’t been able to explore, such as jewelry engraving.

“As a commissioned artist, I spend most of my time creating artwork for other people, and this award frees up some time for me to do something … I want to do,” he said.

Shotridge is often commissioned to create new works for private collectors and organizations seeking to feature Native art. He has also been called upon to restore monumental carvings important to the history of Native communities. Totems he has carved can be seen in several parks in Alaska, as well as the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In the past, he has also been awarded an Alaska State Native Artist Fellowship and a Folk Art Fellowship from the Washington State Arts Commission.

Shotridge said he wanted to share his latest honor with the master carver he worked under in Alaska, as well as his late mother and grandmother, who both taught him Tlingit culture and traditions.

“That’s why this award means so much to me,” he said. “What I’ve learned from the master carver and my mother and grandmother about my culture and my heritage means more to me than anything. This is just a validation, the award.”

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