Kwakwaka’wakw , 1955-2017
Born in Alert Bay, Vancouver Island, Beau Dick grew up in neighboring Kingcome Inlet, an area known for its preservation of Kwakwaka’wakw cultural heritage. Beau’s grandfather, James Dick, and his father, Ben Dick, along with other master artists such as Willie Seaweed, Charlie James, and Mungo Martin, dedicated themselves to ensuring that Kwakwaka’wakw artistic and ceremonial traditions would be passed along to future generations.
Beau began carving at a young age and continued to focus on First Nations art after moving to Vancouver in high school, gaining early recognition for his skill as a painter and carver. He studied carving with Tony Hunt Sr. in Victoria and Doug Cranmer in Vancouver and also acknowledged Bill Reid as a significant influence. Among the most prolific and celebrated artists of his generation, he fulfilled numerous major commissions, including a four-way split transformation mask for the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver and an eleven-figure pole for Vancouver’s Stanley Park. His art reflects both the rich Kwakwaka’wakw cultural legacy and influences from Europe and Asia, and has been exhibited around the globe.
An activist as well as an artist, Beau was devoted to the cause of justice for First Nations people. He will always be remembered for both his art and his humanity.