Russell Smith was born in 1950 in Alert Bay, an island community on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. He is one of five children born to Betty and Jacob Smith. His brother Jerry is also a prominent Northwest Coast artist.
Russell began carving in 1970 and the same year he was commissioned by Bill Holm and Steve Brown to assist in the design and carving of the Sea Monster longhouse for the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. The year long project was formally opened with a traditional ceremony involving many of the families associated with the Sea Monster crest.
Russell returned to Canada and settled in Vancouver where he many of the other emerging artists including Beau Dick, Larry Rosso, and Norman Tait. Many of these artists met on Wednesday nights at the Planetarium to learn carving and design from Doug Cranmer.
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