The son of the late, master carver Amos Wallace has donated his father’s collection of drawings and historical photographs and papers to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI).
The collection, donated by Brian Wallace, is a treasure trove of original drawings made by the famous artist as he was designing totem poles and other carvings destined for museums, universities and private collections. Brian donated it to the institute because he wanted it to be archived and shared at SHI’s Walter Soboleff Center, scheduled to break ground next year.
“It’s really exciting to me that the Walter Soboleff Center is going to be built soon and my dad’s archive is going to be in there—in the center that was named after one of his best friends,” Wallace said. “It is a very, very profound, meaningful thing for me and the rest of the family that his artwork will be preserved there and be shared.”
The collection includes hundreds of sketches of crests, totem poles, plaques, and jewelry designs. Some are completed drawings while others are “snippets of ideas,” Brian said. It also includes photographs of Amos and his work and papers he collected during a lifetime of fighting for Native civil rights through the Alaska Native Brotherhood, where he served three times as Grand President.
Amos was born to Anna and Frank Thomas in Hoonah in 1920. His Tlingit name was Jeet Yaaw Dustaa. He was a Raven from the T’akdeintaan Clan, Sockeye House of Glacier Bay and Hoonah by way of Lituya Bay. He had an older brother, Lincoln, who taught him to carve when Amos was seven. Amos went to boarding school at the Wrangell Institute, where he studied and carved with Horace Marks. He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and fought in World War II. After the war, he returned to Juneau and began making small totem poles with his brother. They traveled to Seattle, where they spent a year carving, then to Portland, Oregon, where they carved for eleven years for a wholesaler.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.
CONTACT: Rosita Worl, 907-463-4844; Brian Wallace, 907-321-0869.