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Prince George-based Indigenous artist wins BC Achievement Award for beadwork

Crystal Behn is the Indigenous Programmer at Two Rivers Gallery

Local artist and Indigenous programmer at Two Rivers Gallery, Crystal Behn, has won the BC Achievement Foundation's Fulmer Award in First Nations Art and the Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist Award for her beadwork.

The Crabtree McLennan Award is presented to a Fulmer Award recipient who has demonstrated excellence in an early part of their career and aims to support and mentor emerging talent.

Behn is from Fort Nelson First Nation in Treaty 8 traditional territory and now resides and works in Prince George.

She first learned to bead fifteen years ago from her grandparents when she began her sobriety journey.

“I spent as much time as I could over at my grandparent's place, learning culture and tradition. They grew up out on the land. They're very fluent in the language and hunting and trapping, every year, and so that's how I learned,” said Behn.

“Seeing that my grandma was getting old and knowing that she’d be gone I just knew that I had to learn, so I spent every day over there at my Grandma’s sitting on the couch and beading with her.”

Behn said she started out very traditionally making moccasins, slippers and mukluks before she began experimenting with making earrings, jewelry, headbands, and whatever else she could think of doing.

Within the last four years, Behn opened a home-based business called In Her Footsteps, Authentic Dene Designs, and as an artist, for the company Manitobah Mukluks her pieces continually sell out.

“Things that I always thought were not possible, things that I never thought I could achieve, I've achieved all of them,” said Behn, of her successes over the past few years.

She added she’s happy to see beadwork is in-demand and that northern artists are being celebrated and recognized.

“I don't think people truly know how much time and patience and thought goes into it. It can take like a whole day just to pick colours,” said Behn. “Some people don't realize, these are luxury items, unique and one-of-a-kind handmade pieces.”

The BC Achievement Foundation also created a three-minute video highlighting Behn and her work as part of the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art.

“It was a lot of fun and I watched it with all the staff here at Two Rivers Gallery for the first time. There were tears and a real sense of pride.”

Behn says winning this award makes her feel like she can accomplish anything.

“It has opened so many opportunities for me with people reaching out for projects and I’d like to say to anyone that feels that they think something is unachievable or unreachable you just have to keep going and eventually it will happen.”

In her role at Two Rivers Gallery, Behn also hosts a virtual Beads and Bannock workshop where she teaches beading and other Indigenous crafts.

“My focus right now is, and has always been, teaching and passing on knowledge and traditions,” said Behn, who encourages others to learn to bead.

She will be hosting an upcoming workshop for Remembrance Day where participants will learn how to make a beaded birch bark poppy magnet.

“Just reach out and give it a try. A lot of people feel discouraged, maybe because they're not Indigenous, or they think it's too hard. But a lot of people really enjoy it because it's really therapeutic.”

BC Achievement is an independent foundation established in 2003 to celebrate community service, arts, humanities, and enterprise.

The recipients of the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art are chosen by an independent jury.



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