Art Thompson was born in 1948 in Whyac, an isolated reserve of the Ditidaht on Vancouver Island. Thompson was largely a self-taught artist who began drawing at an early age. As well, he benefited from the experience of having a father and grandfather who were carvers. Significant, too, were studies with Ron Hamilton and Joe David, two of the artists most responsible for the resurgence of Nuu-chah-nulth art. Thompson was widely regarded as a master carver and artist of great import.
Thompson was initiated into the Tloo-Kwalla or Wolf Society, a tribal initiation ceremony that had been passed down through the generations and besides his renown as a visual artist he attained recognition for his knowledge and practice of the traditional songs and dances of the Nuu-chah-nulth. Finally, Thompson was a tireless fighter for all those who suffered the abuses of the residential school system.
Tragically, Thompson died of cancer in 2003.