Dick, Beau (1955-2017)

We are very saddened by the untimely passing of Dzawada'enuxw hereditary chief Beau Dick, yesterday, March 27, 20017. Our thoughts are with his family. 

Beau Dick was born in 1955 in Alert Bay, B.C., just off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island in the ancestral land of the the Kwakwaka'wakw people. However, the first years of his life he spent in Kingcome Village at the head of Kingcome Inlet. There, only his native language, Kwakwala, was spoken.

Beau attended school in Vancouver and spent the summers with his family in Alert Bay. Beau began carving at the age of fifteen after careful instruction from his grandfather, Jimmy Dick. Beau assisted both his grandfather and father, Ben Dick, in the carving and painting of the worlds tallest totem pole (173') which is raised in Alert Bay. He was also taught and influenced by Henry Speck. Through the encouragement of Henry Speck, Beau developed his skill as a Kwakwaka'wakw dancer and singer and joined the Kwak-Kwala Arts and Crafts Society. His uncle, Jimmy Dawson taught Beau much of the Kwa-gulth mythology and storytelling. Tony Hunt invited Beau Dick to come to Victoria to work alongside him and Chief Henry Hunt. This proved to be a turning point in his career. Since then, Beau has worked walong master carvers including Doug Cranmer, Bill Reid, John Livingston and Robert Davidson.

Many of the Kwakwaka’wakw master artists, including Willie Seaweed, Charlie James, and Mungo Martin as well as Beau’s father Ben Dick and grandfather James Dick carried the art and culture through the period of cultural assimilation and transition to become among the first carvers to receive recognition as “name” artists beyond the cultural definition. They also carried the wealth of songs, dances, and ceremonial rites, which were passed on to the dedicated young artists such as Beau who was among the first artists of the modern era.

He became interested in painting and produced several large canvases in a naturalistic style representing Kwakwaka’wakw mythological figures and ceremonial dancers. He continued to carve and received several important commissions while still a young artist; he painted the dance screen for the Cape Mudge museum and was among the youngest artists chosen for the Legacy Exhibition.

Beau is a prolific and respected artist. He was chosen to carve the large four way split transformation mask for the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, British Columbia, now in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. He was also commissioned to carve a major eleven-figure pole by the City of Vancouver for Stanley Park

Beau has explored new formats and techniques in his work, including painting and drawing. His work can be found in private collections as well as museums, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, QC), the Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ), the Burke Museum (Seattle, WA), the UBC Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Dick’s work has been exhibited most recently in Sakahan: International Indigenous Art (2013) at the National Gallery of Canada, 75 Years of Collecting: First Nations: Myths and Realities (2006) at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Supernatural with Neil Campbell (2004) at the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver). In 2012, Dick received the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation’s VIVA Award for Visual Arts.

Since 2014, Beau is the artist of residence at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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