West Coast artist Dean Heron was born in 1970 and brought up by his adoptive parents. He is of Kaska and Tlingit (Wolf Clan) ancestry, both First Nations peoples in northern Canada. He grew up mostly in Whitehorse, Kitimat and Powell River. His adoptive parents encouraged him to learn about his heritage from a young age. They also exposed him to the arts – the road he would eventually take.
In the early 1990s, with the encouragement and support of his wife Therese, Dean began pursuing art seriously. He started designing and painting, eventually developing an interest in carving. In 2006, his quest to become a carver took him to Terrace, BC, where he began formal training in drawing, design, tool-making and carving. He studied at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art under prominent Northwest Coast artists Stan Bevan, Ken McNeil and Dempsey Bob. The school is BC’s only accredited university-level First Nations Fine Arts Program. He graduated from the program with honours and received the Dr. Freda Diesing Award. Encouraged to teach the fundamentals of Northwest Coast design, Dean stayed at the school for nearly nine years as an instructor and mentor, passing down his knowledge and skills to local youths.
Dean’s body of work includes serigraphs, paintings, regalia design and wood carvings. He received many accolades and was invited to participate in many projects and exhibits in British Columbia and around the world. His work can be found in private collections worldwide, including the High Commission of Canada in Australia and Norwegian Royal Family, and throughout public collections and galleries in Canada, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong and China.
His salmon depiction “What the Future Beholds” was selected by the University of British Columbia Aboriginal Fisheries Centre as its official logo. He was commissioned to help paint five longhouse fronts for Kitselas First Nation in Kitselas, BC. He created a 20-canvas piece “Northern Spirit” for the Vancouver Olympics. The artwork is now on a permanent display at Cypress Mountain.
In 2019, Dean joined the Construction Foundation, eventually taking on the role of a Catalyst for Indigenous Communities. The goal of the foundation is to collaborate with First Nations communities to help their members acquire skills via workshops and showcases so that they can obtain careers that will support both themselves and their communities.
Dean was awarded a Visiting Artist Grant from the Burke Museum, Seattle, WA. He was a Visiting Artist at Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC, and a Visiting Artist at the Adaka Festival, Whitehorse, YK. In May of 2015, he was recognized by the YVR Art Foundation with the YVR Mature Artist Scholarship Award. He is also a board member of BC Arts Council.
Dean’s art straddles both the traditional world of his Tlingit ancestors and the modern world in which he lives. In his own words, “Our art defines who we are and where we are from. I create for the ones who left behind work for us to study from, for those who kept the art alive, and to the ones that will come after us.”