Bill Holm

Bill Holm

Bill Holm, Professor Emeritus of Art History, and Curator Emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Burke Museum, is recognized internationally as one of the most knowledgeable experts in the field of Northwest Coast Native art history. Born in Roundup, Montana in 1925, Bill Holm began his lifelong involvement with Native American art and culture playing on the sandstone bluffs in the Musselshell valley. After moving to Seattle as a teenager, his interests broadened to include the cultures of the Northwest Coast. Following Army service in the Second World War, he entered the University of Washington, earning a Bachelor’s degree and Master of Fine Arts degree in painting.

After teaching art in the Seattle Public Schools for fifteen years, Bill published his first book. Northwest Coast Indian Art: an Analysis of Form (now in its thirteenth printing) which led to appointments in the Burke Museum as Curator of Northwest Coast Indian Art and in the Art History Division of the School of Art at the University of Washington. That book, Northwest Coast Indian Art, An Analysis of Form (1965) has sold over 100,000 copies and is one of the all-time best-selling books published by the University of Washington Press. This book is credited with having drawn a remarkable number of artists into their own practice of Northwest Coast art, and his classes at the University of Washington broadened the understanding and appreciation of that art in several generations of students.

The Native American Art Studies Association recognized him with its Honor Award in 1991. The UW honored him with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and selected him to give the annual University Faculty Lecture in 2003. In 2001, he was honored with a certificate of appreciation from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska through the Sealaska Heritage Institute.  In 2008 he received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Holm retired in 1985 after 17 years as a curator and professor. For thirty-two years he had focused on teaching, research and field work among Northwest Coast people. Following his retirement he began a series of paintings, mostly in acrylic, of the Native people of the Plains, Plateau, and Northwest Coast – the areas of his professional expertise. He has always been interested in the materials and technology of Northwest Native cultures, making nearly every kind of object, form full size plank houses, canoes, and totem poles to bead and porcupine quill decorated clothing of the Plains and Plateau. He has published eight books and many articles on Native Northwest arts and cultures, and has lectured widely in North America and Europe. He has also served as a consultant on Northwest Coast art for many of the world’s major museums.

The Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle is one of the premiere centers for the study of Native arts of the Northwest and is dedicated to helping all people better understand and connect with Northwest Native art.  As part of the Burke Museum’s Culture Department, the center facilitates education about Northwest Native art and, through research grants, public programs, online resources and publications, supports research about and access to the Native art collections at the Burke.

Holm and his wife, Marty live in Seattle, Washington, while their daughter Carla lives in Brussels, Belgium, and their daughter Karen in Seattle.