A wolf head design in the red line at the Treadwell Arena on Thursday, August 1, 2019. Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan Tsimshian worked with students in the BAM After School Program to draw animals in Northwest Coast formline designs to be incorporated in the hockey rink ice. The Treadwell Arena opens for the season on Monday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Tsimshian artist and students design Northwest Coast artwork on ice rink

An ice hockey rink got a redesign by a Tsimshian artist

What’s black and white and red all over?

The new 85-foot-long design that stretches across of the center of the ice inside Treadwell Arena, Douglas Alaska.

This year, the red line that divides the rink in two, incorporates formline — a type of Northwest Coast art that uses ovoids, U forms and S forms — that was mostly drawn up by Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan and Body and Mind After School Program students.

“This is so cool,” Ryan said upon seeing the design on the ice for the first time Thursday afternoon. “This is fantastic. It stands out well. This is so much fun. Wow.”

Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan talks about a project to produce the red line at the Treadwell Arena on Thursday, August 1, 2019. Ryan worked with students in the BAM After School Program to draw animals in Northwest Coast formline designs to be incorporated in the hockey rink ice. The Treadwell Arena opens for the season on Monday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The black formline depictions of eagles, wolves, bears, sea lions, beavers, oracas, mosquitoes and people are sandwiched by two thick red stripes.

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“There’s a lot of different things represented,” Ryan said.

He credited student Hunter Cameron with the idea of sticking to drawing animals found in Southeast Alaska.

A unique red line design is an annual tradition at Treadwell Arena, said Lauren Anderson, manager for Treadwell Arena.

“We never repeat the same design,” Anderson said.

In the past, Anderson said that’s meant doing things like working the Roman numerals XV into the red line for the arena’s 15th anniversary.

Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan Tsimshian, left, talks Treadwell Arena Manager Lauren Anderson, center, and Program Coordinator Thomas McKenzie about the red line at the Treadwell Arena on Thursday, August 1, 2019. Ryan worked with students in the BAM After School Program to draw animals in Northwest Coast formline designs to be incorporated in the hockey rink ice. The Treadwell Arena opens for the season on Monday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

For this year, Anderson said Michael Brna, who leads maintenance for the arena, suggested something that incorporated Alaska Native artwork.

By pursuing the idea Anderson found herself in touch with both Ryan and Zach Gordon Youth Center manager Jorden Nigro.

While the students met twice weekly at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, Ryan taught BAM students some formline basics, and the students in turn drew formline animal heads.

Anderson and Ryan said Cameron and student Kia Abbott were particularly critical to the project’s ultimate success.

Since the project started in April and needed to be finished by about the end of the school year in May, Ryan handled drawing formline bodies, refining the students’ head drawings and creating transitions between the various designs.

Sealaska Heritage Institute, a nonprofit that protects and promotes Alaska Native culture and art, helped support the project and made small changes to the formline drawings, too.

Ryan said the original heads drawn by local children are still clear in the finished product.

“I wanted to make sure the head designs were maintained to the way the kids drew it,” Ryan said.

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The card stock works that Ryan and the students created were then digitized and colored in by Devyn Frugé, printing service coordinator for City and Borough of Juneau.

That saved a lot of time and Sharpie marker ink, Anderson and Ryan said.

“This is the first year we had it printed,” Anderson said.

The red line at the Treadwell Arena on Thursday, August 1, 2019. Tsimshian artist Abel Ryan Tsimshian worked with students in the BAM After School Program to draw animals in Northwest Coast formline designs to be incorporated in the hockey rink ice. The Treadwell Arena opens for the season on Monday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

She said she was pleased with how it turned out and is excited for the red line to make its public debut when the arena opens for the season with a free skate on Monday.

By the time that happens, it’s hoped a second print of the red line will be hanging near the entrance of the Treadwell Arena wall.

Ryan said he’s excited for the kids to see their work.

“They’re already talking about the next one,” he said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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