Take a stroll around the Seattle Convention Center’s new Summit building downtown and you’ll be greeted by two huge wooden statues.
Native artist Andrea Wilbur-Sigo, the first known woodcarver in her family for eight generations, carved the Mowitch Man and the Creator to reflect the traditions of her Coast Salish heritage.
“Welcome figures stood in front of our longhouse sites and were there to protect you when you came to visit,” she explains. “It’s a way to say you’ve arrived.”
The carving took a year — but Wilbur-Sigo’s artistic journey goes back much further.
Carving out a legacy
Born in Seattle and raised on the Skokomish Reservation, Wilbur-Sigo started creating art when she was just 3 years old. But learning the carving trade was challenging early on.
“It has been told to us from generation to generation that women were never carvers,” she says. “But I come from a long line of stubborn women. So I always laugh about that when it’s said... There’s a part of me that can’t believe that my grandma didn’t carve.”
Times they are a-changin’, though. Wilbur-Sigo has met other female carvers at gallery shows. She was also among the cohort of five Native female artists to create art for the Summit building.
The next generation
Wilbur-Sigo also gets satisfaction out of molding minds. She teaches art classes for kids + adults and serves on the board of the Squaxin Island Tribe’s museum.
“As I got older, I realized it’s important to lay a foundation for our next generation to learn about who they are,” she says. “I like to think that art does that for everybody, but it definitely does that for our Native children.”
A collaborative sculpture called Kelp meant to raise environmental awareness will soon appear alongside her Creator figure at the Summit building. And you can see more of Wilbur-Sigo’s art at UW.