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Seattle artist pulls inspiration from ancestors for Smithsonian exhibit

A Seattle glass blower transformed a Tlingit tribal story into a new exhibit.

SEATTLE — Growing up in Wallingford with creative parents, glass artist Preston Singletary was taught that he could do anything he wanted. 

"Why limit yourself to one thing?" he said. 

When he was learning to work with glass, Singletary got inspiration from something personal, his Tlingit culture. 

"My great grandmother, who was full-blooded Tlingit, shared a lot of information about where we came from and lots of stories," he said. "For me it gives me a tremendous sense of purpose, taking this new material and trying to represent my cultural art." 

Tlingit stories play a significant role in Singletary's work. One example is the story of a white raven who brings daylight to people and transforms the world from darkness to light. 

"The story can be as long or as short as you want it to be," Singletary said. "Sometimes it's very elaborate with lots of details."

This story is depicted in his current exhibit, Raven and the Box of Daylight, which opens in Wichita in February before being moved to The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in October. 

Singletary and his team currently work out of an Eastlake studio where he is close to his family and his culture. 

"There is an old Maori proverb that says, my accomplishments are not my own but those of many...," he said. "It's the most fulfilling path I could have found, because it has a lot to do with family, tribal community [and] history." 

Singletary's work can be seen on display every April at the Traver Gallery at 110 Union St. 

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