By Melinda Munson
The Skagway Fire Department redesigned its logo in collaboration with local Tlingit/Haida artist Beau Dennis. The sleek new patch was unveiled at the Dec. 16 assembly meeting and announced on the fire department’s Facebook page Dec. 22.
Skagway Traditional Council President Jaime Bricker happened to accidentally see a poster of the logo before the Dec. 16 meeting.
“I saw the design up in city hall and flipped out,” she said. “It’s an incredible design.”
“I’m just so excited our community in all facets is embracing indiginous culture. It makes me proud,” Bricker said.
The center of the patch is Skagway’s original fire logo, created by the town’s longest serving fire chief, Carl Mulvihill. Formline art fills the outer Maltese cross.
Emily Rauscher, acting fire chief, explained the inspiration behind the blending of the two elements.
“Together, they serve as a reminder of our history so that we may grow and move forward, always remembering where we came from,” she said.
Formline art, a traditional style that dates back two thousands years along the Pacific Northwest Coast, was used to decorate, tell stories and record family histories. It incorporates specific shapes and colors and uses negative and positive space to create bold designs.
To complete the fire logo, Dennis filled the cross arms with ovoids, with U-shapes radiating off the ovoids.
Dennis said the formline on this project doesn’t represent anything in particular or tell a story.
“Sometimes you can just do a design that’s a design,” he said.
The artist started teaching himself formline about six years ago. He went to workshops and studied books. His inspirations are the old masters from the 1800s. He kept his very first drawing, which he described as “atrocious” to remind himself how much he has accomplished.
Dennis designed the logo for Skagway School which adorns the gymnasium floor, taught art classes for local kids through the Skagway Childcare Council and volunteered to design the new logo wear for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles #25. He is currently working on a commission for the municipality which entails formline metal cutouts of eagles which will be installed on the Shoreline Park Restroom.
Dennis, whose Tlingit name is Neechxwuduyaa, said having indiginous representation in the borough is important.
“It’s huge. It means a great deal. It’s the muni acknowledging there was life before the gold rush,” he said.