world-class artists emerging from its centres of rural areas and urban
centres, Alberta has supported the growth of Canada's art scene while
raising the privince's profile. The international display of works created
by Alberta painters such as H.G. Glyde, Jane Ash Poitras and Janet
Mitchell attests to this fact. Beyond serving the arts, images produced by
such individuals also serve as documentation of what life was like during
their times. Landscapes, people and events are all depicted as experienced
through their eyes.
Previous to the early 20th century, art education and
exhibition was not prominent in the prairies. Instead, older and more
heavily-populated cities, such as Montreal and Toronto, acted as focal
points for visual and performing arts. This does not mean that the
relatively isolated province of Alberta was not bustling with artistic
energy at the time, but rather that artistic affiliations were not
organized at a larger and formal scale, nor were they highly acknowledged
and supported by the general population.
As urban centres began to flourish in Alberta, more
readily available resources allowed painting to gain prominence. With more
money and time available to a wider section of the public, this particular
medium began to take a larger role in leisure activities. By the 1930s,
burgeoning creative hubs began drawing more established Canadians who
wanted to engage in founding art training institutions and exhibition
spaces. Dr. Illingworth Kerr, who went on to become a great influence and
prominent art educator in Alberta, was one such individual who found the
nascent Alberta art community attractive.
From the network of collaborating individuals,
organizations devoted to the arts began to appear. The
Alberta Society of Artists (ASA)
materialized in the spring of 1931 and with strong leadership from its
co-founders such as A.C. Leighton, it undertook the role of advocate and
promoter for the arts in Alberta. With a variety of activities stemming
from it, the Society acted as an impetus for the development of formalized
art education, exhibition and funding.