Native Arts

Native art displayed in the UAF Art Department Gallery

Photomanipulation juxtaposing and old image of tlingit shaman with a modern artist. Image by Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner
Da-ka-xeen The Thlinget Artist by Da-ka-xeen Mehner, Assistant professor in Native Arts


The Native Art Program offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Native Art studio practice. UAF is the only school in Alaska to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Native Art and is only one of a few universities in the country to offer a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Native Arts. The studio is equipped with indigenous and contemporary carving tools. Areas of study include wood, ivory, stone and bone carving, woodblock printing, skin sewing, beadwork, basketry and mixed media. Courses offered include beginning, intermediate and advanced Native Art Studio classes each semester to approximately sixty students, many of which are Alaska Native.

Native Art Center

In addition to studio course offerings, the Native Art Center serves as a clearinghouse for information and services on and about Alaska Native art, reaching both the University and Native community of Fairbanks and Alaska.


The Native Art Center has been in existence for over 40 years offering art studio courses, workshops with Native Artists and elders, and artists-in-residence programs including outstanding Yupik, Inupiaq, Athabascan, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Alutiiq and Aleut artists from throughout Alaska.

The Native Art Center was established in the 1965 under the direction of Ron Senungetuk who brought together Alaska Native artists from rural communities to study Alaska Native art at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Over the past forty years, the Center has evolved to become an academic-based program including courses in studio art and Native art history and special workshops and symposia on topics including mask making, bentwood traditions, basketry, sculpture and carving. For the past fourteen years, the Native Art Center has been directed by Alvin Amason, continuing the tradition of providing workshops and residencies in the studio, with Native elders and artists from throughout Alaska. Mr Amason retired in 2008.


Each semester the Center strives to expose students to the diversity of Alaska Native arts by providing lectures, demonstrations, workshops and residencies by visiting Alaska Native artists. The Native Art Center also presents workshops off-site in coordination with statewide art and village-based programs. Faculty and staff also assist in coordination and development of special projects including exhibitions and conferences.

Selected Student Work



Degrees offered through the Native Art program include:
-Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
-Master of Fine Arts (MFA) 
-Minor in Native Arts

UAF is the only institution in Alaska offering such degrees. MFA Candidates are provided teaching opportunities and work alongside BFA and other students in the studio serving as mentors sharing their knowledge of their respective culture and place of origin.



Student Clubs



Da-ka-xeen Mehner

Da-ka-xeen Mehner

Professor of Native Art, Current Department Chair


Da-ka-xeen Mehner (Tlingit/N'ishga) uses the tools of family ancestry and personal history to build his art. Born in Fairbanks, Alaska to a Tlingit/N'ishga Mother and Hippy/American father his work stems from an examination of a multicultural heritage and social expectations and definitions. Da-ka-xeen was raised in two environments, one as an urban Native in Anchorage and the other as a rural Hippy in Fairbanks living without electricity, running water or phones, and heating the house with a wood stove. In particular his work has focused on the constructs of Native American identity, and an attempt to define the Self outside of these constructs. He uses the materials and tools of his family to express himself. From the steel and concrete of his Labor Union father, to the crook knife and cedar of his Alaska Native ancestors, Da-ka-xeen Mehner's artwork reflects his heritage. In an expanded view of "tradition," Da-ka-xeen also includes the inherited tools and skills of photography that were passed down to him from his maternal Uncles.

Da-ka-xeen received his A.A. from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and his B.F.A. from the University of New Mexico. From 1994-2000 Mehner served as the founder and director of Site 21/21, a contemporary art gallery in Albuquerque, NM, and was a founding member/owner of the (Fort) 105 Art Studios in downtown Albuquerque in 1998. Da-ka-xeen returned to Alaska in 2000 and earned his M.F.A in Native Arts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

His work in photography and sculpture has been exhibited from New York to California; Alaska to New Mexico. Collections include the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the University of Alaska Museum of the North (Fairbanks, AK), and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum (Santa Fe, NM), and the Alaska State Museum (Juneau, AK). His work has been featured in the art magazines Sculpture and American Indian Art, and in numerous newspapers, art catalogs, and blogs. He is an Assistant Professor of Native Arts at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the director of the UAF Native Arts Center.

Igor Pasternak

Igor Pasternak

Adjunct Instructor in Drawing & Inuit Art

Current Projects

“To Continue or Be Remembered”: Perpetuating and Sharing Alaska Native Arts



Project Coordinator
"To Continue or Be Remembered" Project

Native Art Center
University of Alaska Fairbanks