Dean Heron is a Northwest Coast artist drawing on a lifelong passion of creating First Nations art to assist the development of Indigenous-focused initiatives across British Columbia. Dean and the Construction Foundation use applied skills and trades as conduits through which to facilitate community-developed and community-driven workshops.
Is there a specific moment you knew that you wanted to create art for a living?
There were several. For me, the moment I wanted to do art was when I recognized that I didn’t know my culture. There was a point where I was in the Royal BC Museum and my now-wife asked me about some Tlingit art and I didn’t know anything about it—that was a moment where I realized that I wanted to learn about my art and my culture. There was another moment where I was standing in an art gallery in Victoria and I was looking at a catalogue of pieces by renowned artist Dempsey Bob. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a carver as well. Little did I know that, ten years later, I would be sitting across from him discussing art.
What is one project you are looking forward to working on in the future?
There is an eagle helmet that I’ve started. I’m looking forward to working more on this piece. It’s modelled after some of the old Tlinget war helmets that were collected by the Russians when they arrived up North. They took back quite a few historical Tlinget items: feast bowls trays, spoons, and early Tlingit armour. When my family travelled to Europe a few years back, we visited the Louvre Museum, which displayed some of the helmets that the Russians had brought back with them. There was a specific helmet that contains one of the only depictions of a woman on a helmet, so that is interesting. The helmets that I viewed in Europe inspired me to work on my own version of an eagle helmet.
What advice would you give artists who are looking to carve out their own career?
Look for a mentor that inspires you, that has all the qualities and work habits that inspire you. Seek them out. As a mentor, my idea of a perfect mentorship is just helping aspiring artists wherever I can. This includes showing them the shortcuts that took me ten years to figure out. A mentorship includes helping artists in their careers by speeding up their learning process, helping them eliminate some of the trial-and-error associated with creating art, and alleviating stress and worry.
“Read Dean’s Here For “The work I’m doing here with the Construction Foundation of BC is ideal. I can use the connections that I have made in my career to assist with workshops and give back to the community. It’s a privilege to pass on the knowledge that I’ve gained throughout my career as an artist and to work with other artists.”
Good feature on our Construction Foundation website by clicking HERE.Kaska/Tlingit Artist | Indigenous Communities Catalyst, Construction Foundation of BC