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ART H 233 A: Survey Of Native Art Of The Pacific Northwest Coast

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Meeting Time: 
MWF 12:00pm - 1:20pm
ART 003
Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse
Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse

Syllabus Description:


Seattle totem pole.jpg  gong_hightop_Wolf_Chucks.jpgSeattle Totem pole stolen from Tongass, Tlingit; 

Louis Gong (Nooksack) Wolf Chucks

From Totems to Tennis Shoes 

Northwest Coast Art and Culture

AH 233 - Winter 2017
Dr. Katie Bunn-Marcuse
M,W,F 12 - 1:20pm, Art 003

"North and South" by Shaun Peterson (Puyallup/Tulalip)


For an overview of the daily class plan, go to the Course Work Overview 233 2017 (filed under "Pages" at left).
For individual assignments, click on the Assignments tab at left.
For Review Slides, click on "Pages" and then choose the Review Slides page. (links to come)

 This course is new to the Canvas platform and changes will be made to improve the site throughout the quarter.  Canvas works best with Firefox or Google Chrome.  (It does not work well with Internet Explorer.)

Course Description: This course will be a survey of Native art as a cultural expression of the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast.  We will study material expressions (“art”) of the Native peoples of Puget Sound, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska from ancient times to the present as well as exploring regional styles, with emphasis on cultural function, aesthetics, and factors of change as well as ceremonial and commercial art.  Topics will include sovereignty, the impacts of historical and present-day colonialism, appropriation, and other issues of current concern.  Each week we will look at a different cultural area and focus on particular themes within each area.  

Course Goals:  This course has multiple goals.  The first is to expose students to the art and culture of the Northwest Coast’s First Nations and to their particular forms of expression through aesthetic expression. In addition to gaining an understanding of this particular kind of expression, we will explore the methodologies of art history:  learning to look at and describe a work of art both verbally and in writing.  A key goal of the course is to become aware of the history and ongoing responsibilities, both personal and institutional, in relationships with the Indigenous people in our region and their tangible and intangible expressions of identity and heritage.

Learning Objectives:  Students will learn to recognize artistic styles and to analyze artworks on a formal and contextual level.  Writing assignments will help to develop the skills of written description and argument. We will practice critical reading skills and comparative techniques and apply them to the objects or practices under examination.  

Writing Assignments: Writing assignments will require close reading and analysis of class material. The writing in this course will focus on the central concepts presented in the class and in assigned readings.  Writing will be a key part of engaging with course material through reading responses and other short on-line and in-class writing work. Critical thinking and reflection will be part of the weekly expectation in this class.  Your dedication to documenting your critical thinking in class preparation materials will strongly influence your success on exams and other written material.

Required Texts:  1) UBook Store - In the Spirit of the Ancestors: Contemporary Northwest Coast Art at the Burke Museum; Edited by Robin K. Wright and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse. $34.95
2) Course packet available at EZ Copy ‘n Print at 4336 University Way NE with additional material on-line as pdfs via the class website. Packets will be ready on Wednesday, January 4th.

Images:  Selected images from the class discussion and lecture will be available online to aid in your writing assignments as you review class material. 

Office Hours:  Dr. Bunn-Marcuse will be available for questions and concerns on Wednesdays, 1:30 – 3pm in Art 202.  Individual appointments in person or via Skype can be scheduled via email at any time. 

Grading:  The course will be graded according to the following formula:
55% Mid-term and final
20% Class preparation and contributions - daily reading & responses, in-class contributions
15% Exhibit experience report
10% Group research presentations and contributions

Class meetings:  Class meets on Mon, Wed, and Friday for discussions, lecture, and group work. An atmosphere of collegial support respecting differences of opinion and divergent worldviews is essential. Participation is encouraged and expected from all members of the class. Prepare to chat with your classmates about your assigned readings. Bring a copy of your reading responses to share with others and to facilitate your own participation. Having your reading packet in class will be handy.  Coming to class prepared is essential to participating in the discussions.  Taking notes in class and in your reader will be key to success on midterms and finals. ***Research shows taking notes by hand = comprehension and retention.  Only students with documented accommodations requests may use a laptop for notes. For a discussion of the reasons for this decision see these articles. No recording of class lectures or discussions without my permission.

Expectations for Success:  All students can succeed in this class.  There are a number of resources available on campus for additional help including the tutor for AH 233 and the OUGL writing center for feedback on drafts of written assignments. Please contact me if you would like some assistance finding the best help for you. Your most helpful resources are your classmates and teammates.  Use may use the Groups function on Canvas to aid your individual study time by posting questions to your colleagues or form a study group to review information and augment your understanding.

Contributions & Attendance:  This success of this class depends on the active participation of all members.  By attending, you agree to contribute to discussions of reading material and additional material presented in class.  Your insights and questions on the materials are a valuable part of the content of this class. Share the thoughts you have generated from your assigned writings and model the types of analyses presented in class.
Late & incomplete work:  Writing assignments will be graded down (B to B-) for each day past the due date. Reading responses are due by 9am on the day of discussion.  They may be turned in early but will not be given credit if they are turned in after the discussion day.  Late exams will not be accepted without a doctor's note.  If you need an extension on any work due to personal circumstances, please talk to me in advance so we can plan appropriately.  Flexibility comes with advance notice.

Teaching Philosophy: In my classes, students track artworks through time, exploring their ceremonial, commercial, and personal contexts in ways that illuminate both the details and the broad strokes of cultural and social exchanges. Writing and speaking about an object’s visual impact challenges many students to approach the subject with a creativity and openness that engenders wide-ranging discussions and deep thinking by student and professor alike. My own training in formal analysis and attribution supports in-depth discussions of style and form, situating objects historically with regard to time and place. I strive to pair formal analysis with a robust art historical approach, integrating components of historical, cultural, and social as well as aesthetic concerns, building in an ethno-historical approach to sources.  A critical element to this approach is engaging with First Nations artists, academics, and culture-bearers, to share their knowledge and experience of the dynamic history of cultural processes.  I strive to bring Native artists and academics into my classroom to provide first-hand discussion of the issues in their own practice.

The core of my research and teaching engages the social life of an object within its cultural paradigm and as it travels outside of the original sphere of production.  As well, discussions of contemporary art practice must also integrate current political and legal issues into an interpretive framework.  Critical understanding of the colonial relationships that led to the alienation of Indigenous material culture is the foundation of any serious discussion of contemporary political and legal constructs that impact Indigenous sovereignty over land, knowledge, material expressions, and human rights. 

My number one priority in teaching Native American art history is for students to develop recognition of and respect for Native art forms and more generally for Indigenous culture.  I want them to realize that these are living cultures, still in existence and changing through time.  This goal is accomplished through the content of the course, guest lectures by Native artists and scholars, and through my enthusiasm and respect for the subject.  Visits to local galleries and museums as well as projects that focus on art in public places by local Native artists draw students’ attention to the Indigenous roots in our environment.   



Lyle Wilson (Haisla) painted version of the 19th century "Final Exam" box


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Catalog Description: 
Surveys indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest Coast from the Columbia River in the south to Southeast Alaska in the north and from ancient through contemporary times. Focuses on the historical and cultural contexts of the art and the stylistic differences between tribal and individual artists' styles.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 9:01pm