Juneau ambulance unveiled with Northwest Coast formline designs

A Juneau ambulance with Northwest Coast formline designs. (09/15/2020).
A Juneau ambulance with Northwest Coast formline designs. (09/15/2020).(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:56 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - A Juneau ambulance, decorated on both sides with Northwest Coast formline art, was unveiled to the public on Tuesday morning.

The project was a collaboration between Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Unity Group, an organization that represents Alaska Native groups from across Juneau.

“The goal of the new ambulance art is to be more inclusive and representative of the community that CCFR serves,” said Beth Weldon, mayor of the City and Borough of Juneau, at the unveiling ceremony that was held online.

The cost of refurbishing the ambulance at $10,000 was paid by the Unity Group.

“It’s important because we are behind those who are the first responders who come to the rescue of our people,” said Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, a council member of the Douglas Indian Association. “Our children are watching and they’re listening.”

The ambulance was blessed by David Katzeek, a Tlingit elder, before firefighters washed it down and pushed it into the downtown firehouse as part of a tradition that dates back more than a century.

The formline designs show a healing hand on both sides of the ambulance. (09/15/2020)
The formline designs show a healing hand on both sides of the ambulance. (09/15/2020)(KTUU)

The artwork on the ambulance is called “Healing Hand and Spirit Face” and was designed by Tlingit artists Crystal Worl and Mary Goddard. The image of a face represents interconnectedness, while the hand is a common theme on both sides of the ambulance.

“It being on an ambulance, it sort of symbolizes giving a hand, a helping hand, a healing hand in this situation,” Worl said.

One side of the ambulance shows a sun representing day and the other side shows stars representing night. Worl said that balance was a happy accident that both artists came up with separately. It came to represent the 24-hour job that first responders must do, she added.

A challenge for Worl and Goddard was coming up with a design that would be allowed under federal law. There are strict requirements that at least 70% of an emergency vehicle’s surface be reflective.

A horizontal stripe also had to be a part of the design which led the artists to look at the image of the hand. “Well, we’ll just extend the thumb line to be that main strip, so it’s part of that design,” Worl said.

“They did an amazing job blending unity with functional art into a very usable piece of equipment that’s going to serve our community for years to come,” said Fire Chief Rich Etheridge at the unveiling ceremony.

Last month, pictures of the ambulance were released on social media. The wide and near-universal praise from across Juneau inspired both artists.

“I was really surprised by the response, I thought it would be a fun project but I didn’t expect this much feedback. So, it’s been really rewarding and really fun,” Goddard said.

Assistant Fire Chief Chad Cameron is reaching out to other groups to see if they would like to refurbish another Juneau emergency vehicle in the fall, Weldon said.

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