BC Achievement Foundation reveals recipients of 2023 Polygon in First Nations Art

Vancouver, BC (October 4, 2023): The BC Achievement Foundation is honoured to announce the recipients of the Polygon Award in First Nations Art (FNA). Presented annually by the independent foundation, which celebrates exceptional people doing exceptional work, the award program shines a light on artistic excellence in traditional, contemporary or media First Nations Art.

“Congratulations to each of the deserving recipients of the 2023 Polygon Award in First Nations Art! The recognition is a testament to your artistic brilliance in traditional and contemporary art,” said Walter Pela, Chair of the BC Achievement Foundation. “The commitment to your craft, impressive body of work, and the recognition you receive within your communities showcase the profound impact of your creativity and dedication to preserving and advancing First Nations art. These contributions enrich the cultural landscape, inspiring others while preserving the deep heritage of First Nations arts in British Columbia. Thank you for inspiring the next generation of artists while preserving the legacy of First Nations Art in BC,” he added.

Now in its 17th year, the Polygon Award in First Nations Art recognizes those who have demonstrated a commitment to their art practice; have accumulated a body of work; and are recognized in their communities as artists. Celebrating the intersection of art and culture, while honouring First Nations artistic traditions, the program creates a platform for community engagement, mentorship, and storytelling.

The 2023 recipients, chosen by an independent jury, are:

Brent Sparrow – Musqueam, Vancouver

Klatle-bhi – Kwakwaka’wakw / Squamish, West Vancouver

Shawna Kiesman – Nisga’a, Ts’msyen, Haida, Victoria – Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist

The 2023 Award of Distinction for Lifetime Achievement, as decided by the BC Achievement Board after community consultation, is:

Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) – Kwakwaka’wakw / Squamish – West Vancouver – Award of Distinction for Lifetime Achievement

The 2023 jury members include Nathan Wilson, Nuu-chah-nulth, Gitxsan and Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry and 2020 recipient; Shawn Hunt, Heiltsuk and 2011 recipient; Xémontélót Carrielynn Victor, Cheam First Nation and 2018 recipient. Connie Watts, Associate Director, Aboriginal Programs, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and artist of Nuu-chah-nulth, Gitxsan and Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry; and Brenda Crabtree, former Director, Aboriginal Programs, and Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Initiatives, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, a member of the Spuzzum Band with both Nlaka’pamux and Sto:lo ancestry, served as advisors.

Through the extraordinary contributions of awardees like these, BC Achievement continues to advance its quest to elevate excellence, share success, and inspire change.

The foundation is hosting a ticketed award ceremony and dinner on Wednesday, November 15 at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Vancouver, BC, where each recipient will be honoured with a short film highlighting their accomplishments. Click here to purchase tickets. Awardees will also be celebrated through an online campaign, #shinethelightbc.

In addition, BC Achievement is proud to present a combined exhibition showcasing the recipients for both the 2023 Polygon Award in First Nations Art and Applied Art + Design Award. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre from Thursday, November 16 to Wednesday, November 22.  Click here to register.

Interviews with representatives of the BC Achievement Foundation and award recipients are available upon request. A media kit, including awardee bios and high-resolution images, can be found here.

For more information about the BC Achievement Foundation and the Polygon Award in First Nations Art program, please visit www.bcachievement.com.

The Polygon Award in First Nations Art is made possible through the generosity of Vancouver-based Polygon Homes. The BC Achievement Foundation is also grateful to supporting sponsors TELUS and TD, and community partners BC Ferries, Denbigh Fine Art Services, and The Roundhouse each of which play a key role in elevating change in their support of the First Nations Art Award program.  


About BC Achievement

BC Achievement is an independent foundation established in 2003 that celebrates the spirit of excellence in our province and serves to honour the best of British Columbia. In addition to the Polygon Award in First Nations Art, the organization presents several established programs, including the Indigenous Business Award, the Applied Art + Design Award, the Community Award and in partnership with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the BC Reconciliation Award. By recognizing the accomplishments of our province’s entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, youth and volunteers, BC Achievement’s award programs pay tribute to exceptional people, doing exceptional work, while carving a path forward for others to follow.

BC Achievement Media Contact
Gemma Bishop
T: 604-375-6953
E: gemma@gatherpublicrelations.com

2023 FNA Awardee Backgrounders

Shawna Kiesman, Victoria
Nisga’a, Ts’msyen, Haida
Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist

Shawna Kiesman, an emerging artist from Victoria, is a testament to dedication and innovation in her craft. With a diverse heritage, including Ts’msyen, Nisga’a and Haida/German roots, Shawna’s artistic journey began at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Arts and continued at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and supported by awards like the Audain Entrance Scholarship and BC Arts Council Scholarship.

As an emerging artist, Shawna’s post-graduation career is thriving, marked by grants and residencies, including the RBC Audain Museum Emerging Artist Program. Permanent collections such as the Nisga’a Museum and Coast Mountain College house and celebrate her work. Each piece is a means of cultural exploration and identity reclamation that delves into her Indigenous heritage. Shawna’s diverse portfolio includes digital art, textiles, drawing, and painting, and is known for its modernized take on everyday items. As a First Nations artist, she seeks to understand her ancestral culture and its complexities while ensuring its continuance and legacy.

Brent Sparrow, Vancouver

Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow developed his practice and artistry through apprenticeships with his mother, Susan A. Point, and John Livingston, adopted Kwakwaka’wakw artist and master carver. Collaborating with his mother, Brent played a pivotal role in creating and installing public art, gracing institutions like the Seattle Art Museum, City of Vancouver, City of Richmond, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Beyond these collaborative ventures, Brent’s portfolio boasts nearly two dozen large-scale public artworks, spanning bronze, glass, and cedar, while his private works grace collections and galleries. His art deeply roots itself in his Coast Salish heritage, respecting ancestral legacies and contributing to cultural preservation.

Educated at BCIT, he holds a provincial “B” Red Seal in welding, adding a necessary skill to his artistic tool kit. Recent achievements include the installation of cast bronze public art at the UBC Bus Exchange, symbolizing a warm Musqueam welcome to the UBC Vancouver campus.

Klatle-bhi, West Vancouver
Kwakwaka’wakw / Squamish

Klatle-bhi, a master carver, is celebrated for his exquisite red cedar masks and a diverse portfolio which encompasses panels and totem poles. With over three decades of experience, his carving has evolved, driven by a deep commitment to ancestral spirituality and culture. Klatle-bhi’s distinctive style seeks the pinnacle of craftsmanship and artistry. His roots in Squamish and Kwakwaka’wakw cultures are integral to his life, as he strives to preserve languages, dances, and songs.

A supporter of passing on traditions, Klatle-bhi not only creates art but also mentors the next generation of artists. His collaborations with Collingwood School in West Vancouver have produced meaningful totem poles representing academic, athletic, service, and artistic excellence.

Klatle-bhi’s contributions extend beyond the studio; he has sung, danced, spoken, and shared his art at numerous gatherings and potlatches. His works are displayed in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and the Burke Memorial Museum of Natural History in Seattle.

Xwalacktun (Rick Harry), West Vancouver
Kwakwaka’wakw / Squamish
Award of Distinction

Xwalacktun is an internationally renowned artist with roots in the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and Kwakwaka’wakw Nation (Alert Bay). His remarkable artistic career spans over 40 years, encompassing a wide range of mediums, from public art and sculpture to metalwork, jewellery, glasswork, drawing, printmaking, and his renowned wood carving. He seamlessly blends traditional Salish forms with contemporary expressions, a hallmark of his distinctive style.

His art has captivated collectors worldwide and graced exhibitions both locally and internationally. Xwalacktun’s creative journey began with a degree in sculpture from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Xwalacktun has shared his talent in Scotland, promoting its totem pole project and demonstrating his carving techniques in several Scottish communities. He is an artist, an educator and a mentor whose practice nurtures many apprentices, including his sons.

He played a pivotal role in preserving Salish culture as a contributing artist for Simon Fraser University’s 2009 “A Journey into Time Immemorial.”

Xwalacktun’s artistic legacy is interwoven with his community involvement, attending local events, and offering cultural greetings. His numerous accolades include his 2022 Honorary Doctorate from Emily Carr University, the 2016 First Nations Art Award, and the 2012 Order of BC. His art adorns public spaces across Canada and internationally, showcasing his ability to seamlessly blend tradition with modernity.

Join the Conversation, Share the News.