Art Thompson was born in 1948 in the village of Whyac on the southern end of Nitinat Lake. He belonged to the Ditidaht Band of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.
Art was fortunate to be immersed in the cultural life of his people from an early age, when he was initiated into the Tlukwalla society. As a small boy he showed great interest in artistic expression. This was encouraged by his paternal grandfather, from whom he learned the history, songs and dances of his people.