All News

UD Exhibit to Highlight Tsimshian Art

By Stacey Ortman

DUBUQUE, Iowa - The University of Dubuque's Bisignano Art Gallery will host a free reception for "Tsimshian: Art of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest" from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, October 22, 2022, in the gallery at Heritage Center, 2255 Bennett Street. It is open to the public.

"It is clearly a bold, beautiful, and intricate art form. Perhaps not surprising, given the sad history of interaction between the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest and Western settlers, at one time Tsimshian art was forbidden. Yet, it is now experiencing a kind of revitalization - a renascence of sorts - that can be seen in the study and understanding of a complex design system called 'formline' as well as in the different carving techniques used to create totem poles, masks, rattles, panels, bentwood boxes, and other forms of art," said Alan Garfield, director of the art gallery.

"Tsimshian: Art of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest" is free and open to the public through Friday, October 28, 2022. The exhibit includes a beaded throw, bentwood box, drum, and more artwork. One of the featured artists is David Boxley, a Tsimshian artist and former Woodward Artist-in-Residence at UD. Originally from Metlakatla, Alaska, Boxley now lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. He has dedicated over 40 years in interpreting and modernizing Tsimshian art and culture.

"As an artist and culture-bearer, Boxley has been deeply involved in the rebuilding and teaching of native art, traditions, and language. His art demonstrates that a culture threatened by extinction can still be alive and thriving," Garfield said.

Boxley has produced thousands of works for patrons around the world, including the totem pole Eagle's Journey on display at UD. The artwork will return to the Peter and Susan Smith Welcome Center at the conclusion of "Tsimshian: Art of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest."

The exhibit has connections to the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Under the leadership of the late Rev. Henry Fawcett, who served as pastor to students, director of the Native American Program, and professor of ministry from 1986 to 2003, UDTS acknowledged Alaska Natives by training them as pastors in Dubuque. Fawcett, who was from Metlakatla, Alaska, was a member of the Tsimshian Nation and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Garfield said Fawcett was a relentless advocate for the dignity, self-respect, and civil rights of Alaska Natives and Native American peoples during his adult life - both in and out of the classroom.

An anonymous private collector lent the majority of the works in the show. Thanks to alumni Bill (C'68) and Judith (C'67) Crandall, a publication about the exhibit will be available for a general audience.

The reception for "Tsimshian: Art of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest" will take place in conjunction with Tony Danza: Standards & Stories at 8:00 p.m. October 22 in John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center. For more information or to purchase tickets to the performance, please visit

Gallery hours are noon to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday during the academic year. The art gallery is also open in conjunction with all major events in John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center.

"Tsimshian: Art of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest" is also available virtually at