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    16 July 2018 / Donors

    Sharing a Hidden Treasure of Art with All

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    Dr. Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess (DFA '04),  a community leader, internationally recognized art historian an  lecturer, businesswoman, rancher and philanthropist, was born in Calgary  on May 3, 1916. She attended high school in Calgary and began her  post-secondary education at the University of Alberta in 1934. Hess  completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto in 1938 and  post-graduate studies at the University of Iowa in 1947. During her time  in Toronto, she met several members of the Group of Seven and they  encouraged her love of art.

    Hess_Margaret-Facebook
    Photo credit: The Alberta Order of Excellence

    During the Second World War, she returned to Alberta to teach art  history at what are now the Alberta College of Art and Design and the  Banff Centre. When she lived in Banff, she hosted parties attended by  the likes of A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris.

    In 1970, Hess opened Calgary Galleries Ltd., which was one of the  first galleries in Canada to showcase Indigenous art. Recognized as a  world authority on Inuit and First Nations art, she willingly shared her  knowledge with students and scholars.

    Lawren-S-Harris_Algoma-Sketch-LIV-Beaver-Drowned-Algoma_c.1920
    Lawren S. Harris, Algoma Sketch LIV - Beaver Drowned Algoma, c. 1920, Oil

    Hess was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993 for her  research, writing, exhibitions and lectures on Canadian Indigenous art.  She also received many other awards, including the Alberta Order of  Excellence and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. In 2004,  uLethbridge awarded Hess with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts one of  several honorary degrees she received from various universities.

    Hess passed away September 2, 2016, only months after her 100th birthday.

    In 2017, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery received an exceptional bequest from Marmie's estate, a gift that  included an unparalleled collection of more than 1,000 works valued at  $4 to $5 million, including pieces by the Group of Seven and their  contemporaries, as well as more than 400 works by Indigenous artists,  primarily Inuit and Northwest Coast First Nations. Collectively, the  works tell the story of Canadian art in the 20th century from both  settler and Indigenous perspectives.

    Jock-JWG-Macdonald_Birds_1948
    Jock JWG Macdonald, Birds, 1948, Watercolour

    “This is the largest gift of art and cultural properties to the  University in its 51-year history,” says Dr. Mike Mahon, uLethbridge  president and vice-chancellor. “We are honoured to become the home for  these iconic works of art. Marmie was truly a renaissance woman; she was  highly educated and committed to the arts, education and the  community.”

    To recognize Dr. Hess's impressive legacy of contributions to both  Alberta's and Canada's cultural heritage, uLethbridge renamed its main  gallery the Dr. Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess Gallery. This diverse  collection is a hidden treasure, most of the works have never been seen  in public, including Cliffs Near Petawawa by Tom Thomson, a contemporary  of the Group of Seven. It alone is valued at more than $1 million.

    “Marmie had a really good eye and she was ahead of her time with her  strong interest in learning from Indigenous people and their art,” says  Dr. Josephine Mills, uLethbridge Art Gallery director and curator and  Fine Arts professor. “This collection is an amazing addition for us.”

    Tom-Thomson_Cliffs-Near-Petawawa_1916
    Tom Thomson, Cliffs Near Petawawa, 1916, Oil

    The Gallery is committed to making this collection accessible to  audiences on and off campus, inviting students faculty, staff and the  community to engage with the University's vast collection through  exhibitions, educational programs and initiatives.

    “It was important to Marmie that her collection be open and  accessible to the broadest audiences possible and also be used to  support education, teaching and research. Given these wishes, we find it  so satisfying that the Hess collection has found a new home at  uLethbridge,” say Dale Boniface and Richard Haskayne, co-executors of  the Hess estate. “Recognized nationally for the quality of its art  collection and the standard of care and stewardship it provides to the  collection, we take great comfort in knowing that Marmie would be  absolutely thrilled with the new home and plans for her collection.”

    Students can visit the Gallery to view exhibitions and participate in  events, gain professional experience by volunteering, through  internships with the Art History/Museum Studies program, and exhibits pairing student work with the collection.

    Moreover, the Art Gallery attracts members of the public to campus,  providing access to contemporary and historical exhibitions, to  professional visual arts programming and to on-campus research about the  works and the artists.

    “The uLethbridge Art Gallery is the perfect home for this gift  because of our emphasis on creating in-depth engagement for students,  scholars and the public,” says Mills.

    Margaret-Shelton_Barn-at-Seebe_1975
    Margaret Shelton, Barn at Seebe, 1975, Ink on paper

    In addition to exhibitions, collecting and research support, the  Gallery also partners with art galleries and cultural organizations  throughout Alberta and across Canada. The Gallery loans more than 50  works a year to galleries in Canada and internationally, and supports  research by students, curators and scholars. Graduates from the  internship program go on to work in organizations across Canada.

    Learn more about the remarkable and feisty Marmie Hess

    Learn more about the implications this gift has for student learning, research and public access to Canadian history

    "Operation Coffee Cake" was the Art Gallery team's code for the  project they had in processing Marmie's request. From September 2017,  the team had to work in secret to get the art appraised and curated for  our public announcement in June 2018. Go behind the scenes as they tell  their side of the story

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