Born in Yakima, Washington and raised in Seattle, Jean graduated from Cornish College and later the University of Texas in San Antonio, Texas. For many formative years, she lived in Idaho working at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts thriving on exposure to a diversity of visiting artists and scholars.

Behnke has exhibited nationally for 40 years with reviews in Art in America and Artweek. Solo exhibitions include the Kohler House in San Antonio, the Art Gym in Portland, Women & Their Work in Austin, Cygnus Gallery in La Conner, Anchor art space in Anacortes, Shoreline in Seattle and Perry & Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon. Among others, Jean's work has been included at CoCA, the Tacoma Museum of Art, the Hunt Gallery, San Juan Islands Museum of Art, Whatcom Museum, Anchor art space, Skagit Valley College, Lower Columbia College and WSU Tri-Cities.

Jean founded Anchor art space, a well-respected exhibition space offering compelling shows and programs attracting a broad audience from the region and beyond. She served on boards at Cornish College, 911 Media Arts, Anchor art space and the La Conner Arts Commission as well as represented Artist Trust as a regional ATAL speaker. Jean exhibited at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and is represented by Smith & Vallee Gallery in the Skagit Valley in northwest Washington.