Heiltsuk artist Ben Houstie was born in Bella Bella, BC (Waglisla) in 1960. Ben started making Northwest Coast style artwork as a very young age and his mediums include original paintings, limited edition prints, carved rattles, paddles and silver and gold jewelry. Artists that Ben has worked with include Cheryl Hall, Robert Hall, David Gladstone and Beau Dick. In 1988 Ben worked under renowned Hadia artist Bill Reid paintings several drums and 20 paddles for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. in 2000, ben painted several reconstructed artworks for the Museum of Anthropology’s “The Transforming Image” exhibition at the University of British Columbia.
Ben is one of the few Northwest Coast Native artists who produce small original paintings and miniature wood masks. The style that he has created is all his own, keeping within the traditional form of his culture. Ben is very much interested in helping preserve his cultural background through his artwork for future generations.
“As a child, I had the opportunity to watch master carver, Mungo Martin, worked on the world’s largest totem pole, in Alert Bay, B.C. I had been removed from my family and community and placed in St Michael’s residential school in Alert Bay. Residential schools were designed to “remove” culture and promote assimilation and yet ironically in Alert Bay, I found the artistic traditions of our culture. As a survivor I am deeply impacted by the painful experiences of being in a residential school. My art is part of my healing and provides a connection to my culture. Working with Bill Reid as well as a project featuring bent box designs created by my great grandfather, Daniel Houstie were critical in my understanding of our unique art forms. I have committed my life to Northwest Coast Art and am delighted that my son Christopher is following in our family tradition.
- Ben Houstie