Shawna Kiesman named Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist – Polygon Award in First Nations Art

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

Not bad for someone who never envisioned being an artist. “If you told me when I was in high school that I’m going to win a BC Achievement Award, I would probably think you’re crazy because I never did art. I never thought I would be an artist or even doing anything within my culture so prominently at all.” 

Shawna’s commitment to her artistic development is recognized and elevated in receiving the 2023 Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist designation. The independent jury’s selection denotes that though in the early stages of her professional career, Shawna’s artistic trajectory points her in the direction of advanced artistic development. 

Photo: Shawna Kiesman, 2023 Crabtree McLennan Emerging

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.  

As the recipient of the 2023 Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist, Shawna will be commissioned to design a paddle for the BC Reconciliation Award, another of BC Achievement’s programs – this one in partnership with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The symbolism of presenting recipients of the BC Reconciliation Award with a print of the paddle designed by the Crabtree McLennan Emerging artist stems from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the BC Reconciliation Award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the BC Legislature buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward. 

In honour of this legacy, each year, recipients are presented with a print of a canoe paddle designed by the Emerging Artist recipient of the Polygon Award in First Nations Art. For the 2024 recipients, they will receive a limited edition print of Shawna Kiesman’s designed paddle. Each original paddle hangs in Government House celebrating the awardees and each artists’ interpretation of reconciliation. 

Shawna will be recognized for her artistic accomplishments at the Dinner and Award Presentation on November 15. Purchase tickets for the event at 

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