A visit from Nathan Jackson

Cathy Watkin's Art History class got a lesson in traditional Tlingit culture recently when master carver Nathan Jackson stopped in for a visit to discuss his culture and life as an artist. 

Jackson, a native of Kethikan, Alaska and member of the Native American tribe Tlingit, performed a ceremonial dance wearing a hand-woven blanket crafted by his wife. 

The Raven crest on the balnaket represents one of the two major clans, the sockeye salmon is a smaller family within the Raven's group.

From there, Jackson got down to the basics of carving with a demonstration of the main chipping tool called the adze, a curved, razor-sharp instrument.  

A recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship (1995) under President Clinton, Jackson presented a slide show of some of his major totem pole commissions, some made out of a single block of wood 40-feet tall. One curious slide showed a 12-foot cedar totem pole carved for the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas cruise ship.

In closing, Jackson talked about the uniqueness of being an artist, "I leave art work for people to enjoy. Art becomes something that eventually does not belong to me anymore, but for others to share in my abilities." 

How did this accomplished artist find his way to Peddie? Thanks to Hightstown resident Adam Welch, a member of the town's Arts Council, with the help from Associate Head of School Catherine Rodrique, Welch, a ceramics artist, worked as an assistant to Jackson for nine years in Alaska  and was involved in many large projects including a 23-foot totem pole commission for the Indianer Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. When Welch found out that Jackson's  was coming south to attend his son, Stephen's graduation ( He received his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University), Welch invited Jackson to visit Peddie.