Born in Sitka, Alaska, Nicholas Galanin has struck an intriguing balance between his origins and the course of his practice. Having trained extensively in 'traditional' as well as 'contemporary' approaches to art, he pursues them both in parallel paths. His stunning bodies of work simultaneously preserve his culture and explore new perceptual territory.
Galanin comes from a long line of Northwest Coast artists - starting with his great-grandfather, who sculpted in wood, down through his father, who works in both precious metal and stone. Although Galanin's parents separated when he was a child, he continued to spend important time with his father, especially working together in the studio. The artist looks back on those experiences now as a "very memorable part of [his] childhood" - as this sharing of art became a potent link to his heritage and a vehicle of cultural identity.
Having always had an interest in creating, Galanin took on apprenticeships at an early age - first with his father and his uncle, then with other local, traditional artists. When he was about 18, he began to feel the strain of being pulled in two directions - working a day-job, with its requisite frustrations and energy drain, while simultaneously apprenticing in the arts. At that point he realized that he needed to commit himself totally to art-making, or it "wasn't going to happen." From early craft courses, he went on to study at the London Guildhall University (in London, England from 2000 to 2003), where he received a Bachelor's of Fine Arts with honors in Jewelry Design and Silversmithing.
Soon after, Galanin discovered a graduate arts program at Massey University in New Zealand that meshed perfectly with his interests and concerns, and in 2004 he began earning a Master's degree there in Indigenous Visual Arts. The artist has commented that the Maori have established strong cultural programs, and that their initiatives are of tremendous interest to other indigenous groups.