The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art lost a founder - visionary on November 26, 2019, when Scott Hean died after a short, valiant battle with cancer. He was recruited to the Bill Reid Foundation’s board in 2007, and became chair of the board that, with the Bill Reid Trust, opened the Gallery to the public in May of 2008. Scott’s dream was for the Gallery to celebrate the magnificent career and art of Bill Reid, and to promote the careers of contemporary Northwest Coast indigenous artists who aspired to follow in Reid’s spirit of cultural creativity and national contribution. Scott died knowing he had helped make this dream a reality.
Scott was born in Burnaby, BC into a family that championed public service and voluntarism, and he attended Simon Fraser’s inaugural class of students. His father was a member of Simon Fraser University’s inaugural board of governors. He took a break from his university studies to learn to fly floatplanes, and was based in Alert Bay as a pilot for two years. Here he began to serve and learn about the Kwakwaka’wakw communities and culture and developed his love of Northwest Coast art. He next completed his undergrad studies and an MBA and decided to become a banker. He retired from this career at age 50, as Senior Vice- President, BC and Yukon, for the Bank of Montreal.
Scott next unleashed his entrepreneurial activities with a wide-ranging collection of business start-ups, based in Vancouver. He also became a master volunteer on key civil society boards and became a political organizer with the Green Party and municipal politics in West Vancouver. In 2014, he and Gwich’in entrepreneur James Ross combined efforts to launch AuraRoss, Canada’s first Settler/Indigenous mining exploration start-up in the Yukon and Western Arctic.
I first met Scott as my Bill Reid Foundation board chair when I was start-up CEO of the Gallery, and president of the Bill Reid Foundation (between 2009 and 2014). Ultimately he became a great friend. We worked on political support building for the Gallery, got to know a cadre of wonderful young indigenous artists and curators, and we struggled together to establish a financial model that would enable perpetual sustainability. We found it with our innovative partnership with Simon Fraser University, and Scott’s contribution to this model was pivotal to its success.
It is rare in the world of art gallery management and governance to meet people who combine superb financial and political expertise with deep aesthetic and cultural understanding. Scott Hean was that kind of person. The Gallery will always benefit from his broad range of experience and sensitivity during its founding era.
Mike Robinson CM
📸 Scott Hean (left), Board Chair Joanne Gassman (right) celebrated the Gallery’s 10th anniversary at the Raven’s Feast Gala in June 2018