Meet Rico Worl, an Alaska Native Artist

View of Rico Worl, Alaska Native artist, at Port of Juneau.

When you embark on an Alaska cruise with Holland America Line later this summer, you’ll notice beautiful and intricate artwork on menus and other items representing stories and traditions of the indigenous people of the great land. The creator of these beautiful works of art is Rico Lanáat’ Worl, a Tlingit and Athabascan social designer and artist. He has artfully combined his learnings of anthropology with the teachings of his culture and community.

Growing up in Juneau and witnessing the beauty of Alaska firsthand, Rico is grateful for the traditions and stories that have been shared through the years, fueling his artwork so he, too, can be a messenger for future generations.

“One role that I’ve always felt has been important to me is being able to represent the identity of my tribe and the people that raised me,” he said. “Holland America reached out and wanted to be able to represent local voices here, and that was perfectly in line with what I want to do, too.”

View of Rico Worl, Alaska Native artist, at Port of Juneau, with Holland America Line cruise ship in background.

The passion for art runs deep for Rico and his family, including his sister, Crystal Kaakeeyáa Worl. In fact, the mural in the background of the featured image above was created by Crystal, and you can see it as you disembark at the port in Juneau.

View of dining menu with Alaska Native artwork and pictures of Alaska wildlife.

Rico’s artwork appears in blue in the sample material above. 

When it comes to Rico’s art you’ll notice a lot of wildlife. They’re central to many of the stories passed on from the ancestors of Alaska Natives, recognizing they have shared the land with them for thousands of years. The beautiful creatures of Alaska are also one of the reasons many people travel there.

“The wildlife here… we’ve lived alongside them, and they’ve helped sustain our communities. A lot of times that’s the relationship we’re representing in the artwork. Each relationship is intricate and it’s a story all its own.”

Rico explained that the Tlingit people make up a society divided in two halves, represented by the eagle and the raven. His mother’s side is represented by the raven. Within each side you have clans, and Rico’s is represented by the sockeye. That’s why you’ll often see the raven and sockeye incorporated in his regalia because he and his art share those stories. Though he loves both creatures, his favorite is the raven.

“They are very playful, and they’ll play jokes on you. The raven is a trickster character. They’ll tease your dogs and get really creative. I’ve always tried to emulate that creativity and play in my career.”

It’s that playfulness and creativity that inspired him to establish his own company – appropriately named the Trickster Company – after the raven. You’ll also find the spirit of both the raven and sockeye in some of the artwork introduced on board.

Being raised in both the Tlingit and Athabascan tribes – and learning about the arts and culture of each one – have uplifted Rico and given him strength throughout the years. It has helped him express the beauty of the culture through his own artwork, which he hopes empowers the next generation.

“I feel like my role is to be a good ancestor for the next generation. To continue to uphold the legacy of the art but also make its place in the modern world. I’m hoping people see these designs and want to know more. There’s a rich history to our art, and there’s a rich culture behind where they come from. I’m hoping it’s a little gateway for passengers to get interested in Alaska Native art.”

In addition to seeing some of Rico’s artwork on board, you can also find his art on display at the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau.


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One Comment

  1. Clifford Hudson September 10, 2023 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    I love his perspective of he must be a “good ancestor for the next generation.” We are all connected!

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