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Art Thompson

Arts and Culture (2000)

Art Thompson has taken the pain he suffered as an abused child and turned it into astonishing beauty. Born in the village of Whyac on Vancouver Island, Mr. Thompson was taken from his family and sent to the Alberni Indian Residential School where he survived horrendous abuses. He ran away from the school for the last time at age 13 and secured work as a logger. He eventually found his gift in 1967 when he enrolled in Camosun College in Victoria to study art. Mr. Thompson is now recognized across Canada as a Master artist. His carvings, paintings, jewelry, and prints, all derived from his Nuu-chah-nulth and Cowichan ancestry, are sought after internationally by embassies, art galleries, collectors and museums alike. When he began work as an artist, he focused on two-dimensional design and sculptures. Then, in the 1970’s, when he began engraving silver and gold, he was considered to be the foremost Nuu-chah-nulth jeweler at that time. In the late 1970’s, Mr. Thompson began working on a monumental scale, carving numerous totem poles and panels for commissions in Canada, the United States, and his Nuu-chah-nulth homeland. He designed both the medals awarded at the 1994 Commonwealth Games as well as the Queen’s Baton. He lectures internationally on First Nations culture and art. As a philanthropist, he has raised thousands of dollars for a variety of civic causes, including the Victoria Symphony and Camosun College, and many First Nations causes related to education. His contributions as an artist and civic leader earned him a special Citizen Award from the City of Victoria in 1995.