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Freda Diesing

Arts and Culture (2002)

It’s become cliche to praise an artist by announcing their work is ahead of its time. All that changes, however, when you consider the artistic life and legacy of West Coast master artist Freda Diesing. Now in her late 70s, this Haida legend is one of the senior artists and teachers of her generation. She and a handful of other artists were responsible for the reawakening of Northwest Coast art and culture that began in the 1960s. Ms. Diesing worked with Robert Davidson and Tony Hunt and soon created a carving style uniquely her own. Since those days, now a generation past, her people and culture have enjoyed a Renaissance of incredible proportions. “It has been a revival of carving and a preserving of culture,” Ms. Diesing says proudly today. By 1980, Ms. Diesing’s work was included in the ground breaking exhibition, Legacy – Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art that was assembled by the Royal British Columbia Museum. It later toured to other countries and showcased her culture’s art and history to the world. One of the first female carvers on the modern Northwest Coast, she jokes today at just how hard it is to complete the top 40 feet of one of her endless and breathtaking totem poles. Many say Ms. Diesing’s greatest legacy is in the students who have followed her. A tireless educator, it is estimated that as many as 15 of her former students now earn their livings as full-time artists. “In my career I have worked with major artists,” Haida success story Don Yeoman writes. “But I still tell anyone the best teacher I had was my first: Freda Diesing.” Both artist and educator, Freda Diesing has revived an old art from that will help build a better tomorrow.