- Erik in the booth at the 2010 Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival. It rained during all six outdoor shows that we participated in 2010. It was a cool summer.
- Erik with two art lovers at Arts On The Hill art show in Kansas City, Mo, Sept. 2004
- Erik with his art in Grand Central Station Washington D.C., June 2004
- Erik in Lands End Resort, Homer, Alaska.(Permanent display)
- All summer, every year we travel today to art shows, festivals, fairs to sell Erik's art. We live in our grey fan and fill the trailor with art and our bikes. The sun doesn't set so we camp anywhere we wish along the road system and enjoy our Alaskan midnight sun.By October, the darkness returns and the camper goes under it's heavy tarp cover for the winter.
- Eight students graduated from tiny Kenny Lake School in 1999. Erik's contract for the 2001 Special Olympic World Winter Games art was announced at that time.
- Erik in Phoenix, Arizona, art show 2007
- Erik Summer 2010
- Ptarmigan Arts, in Homer. Erik was juried into the co-op art gallery in 1999 and his originals, prints, cards, books and coloring books are found there today.
- Erik at the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival with Linda Rutledge, his friend from Kenny Lake School, 2008.
- Erik in his studio
Erik is an Alaskan Artist, experiencing Down syndrome and autism. He was born when his parents, Steve and Linda, were trapping in the Lake Clark area of Alaska. His first years were spent wrapped in a sleeping bag, strapped in a box on top of a dog sled, piled with all the family’s worldly goods. Life was hard and by age 3, they moved into the fishing town of Dillingham, Alaska on the Bristol Bay coast.
Years later his mom and dad split up, thus his mom returned to life as a “bush teacher” in rural Alaska. Erik and his younger brother Chris, grew up moving from bush school to school around the state. They saw peninsula grizzly bears, caribou, trumpeter swans, ducks, moose, salmon, beluga and killer whales plus many other animals in the wild as their mother tried to focus attention toward the natural beauty and wildlife of Alaska. Most of his childhood was spent in southwest bush Alaska with infrequent plane trips to “town” (Anchorage) to buy supplies.
Colors, coloring books, drawing paper, tracing paper, markers, paints, chalks were always purchased for him by his family since he loved to spend hours in artistic endeavors. No one realized he was teaching himself to draw in the hours he spent each day looking at other art, books, and the world he lived in. For years, mom had dreamed that Erik would someday work as an artist but it seemed impossible due to the level of his disability.
In August of 1997, Erik’s mom was offered a teaching job “on the road” in the Copper River area. It was perfect since she preferred small school with multiple grades. She, overnight, became Erik’s physical education and special education teacher. This was the chance to see if it was possible for him to become a professional artist. The blessing of Kenny Lake was a wonderful dedicated teacher aide, Linda Rutledge. They closely teamed up and continually supported the dream of his mother. They put white drawing paper in front of him with black ink pens and gave him piles of old books filled with wildlife shots. Progress was shockingly fast for him. Soon other artists from the valley were telling them that Erik was a “gifted” artist. As Erik’s style developed, mom realized they were entering into terra incognito. All winter the team of three learned about the art profession, asked questions and read everything they could find on art and art publishing.
In April of 1998, Erik and mom took his files of drawings to Anchorage art galleries in search of a market. He met the owner of Aurora Fine Art, Diane Louise, and she patiently studied his work. Tears were soon pouring from his mom’s eyes as the gallery owner announced, “I would like to be the first gallery to introduce Erik Behnke to the World!” It was a beginning.
That summer, 1998, Erik had three professional art shows in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Glennallen. After a busy summer, the family settled into a second cold winter in Kenny Lake where the temperature dropped below 60 below zero. This didn’t stop Erik from focusing on his art. He designed the art for the 2001 Special Olympic World Winter Games poster, worked on his coloring book illustrations and signed his first professional contract.
Erik finally graduated from tiny Kenny Lake School and now sells his originals, 52 prints, cards and more in several art galleries, book stores and gift shops. Erik and his mom moved to the art community of Homer in 1999 where he now happily spends his time. His art is now all around the world and new markets are being pursued daily.