Spotlight: Nadia Jackinsky-Sethi leads new program to revitalize Alaska Native art

From exploring the tucked-away corners of the Louvre in Paris, France, to digging through the catalog system at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., Nadia Jackinsky-Sethi knows her way around a museum.

Growing up in Homer, art has always been a passion for the CIRI descendant and daughter of shareholder Sara Jackinsky and Ken Jones. Jackinsky-Sethi studied art history at George Washington University, achieving her degree in 2003. However, her passion for art didn’t fully ignite until she took a job as an English teacher in Paris after graduating college.

“One of the perks of the teaching program is a free pass to the museums of France,” Jackinsky-Sethi said. “One day, while I was touring the Louvre, I saw a fascinating Alutiiq mask and it triggered an interest to learn more about my own heritage and Alaska Native art.”

That was roughly ten years ago. Today, Jackinsky-Sethi is settling into a new position at The CIRI Foundation that could have a significant impact on the revitalization of Alaska Native art. Jackinsky-Sethi is the program officer overseeing A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Art & Culture grant program.

The program, launched this year, is part of a new grant making partnership with the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation to foster the transfer of knowledge about Alaska Native art and culture to future generations.

“Art is such an important aspect for building and maintaining strong, vibrant communities,” Jackinsky-Sethi said. “We have seen a revival in Alaska Native art and I believe this program could have an important impact throughout the state on sustaining the momentum.”

From her days of touring museums in Paris to her current position in Anchorage, Jackinsky-Sethi achieved her master’s degree and doctorate degree in art history at the University of Washington. She held an internship at the Burke Museum in Seattle, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. She also worked for a year as a curator at the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka, Alaska.

Along that journey, Jackinsky-Sethi herself benefited from grants and scholarships from The CIRI Foundation and a realization of how important that support can be to students.

“It was extremely helpful to me. I would not have been able to complete my research without the generosity of The CIRI Foundation,” Jackinsky- Sethi said.

Jackinsky-Sethi’s world travels have slowed and she has settled, not far from her childhood home, enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to influence the renaissance of Alaska Native art and culture.