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Mistresses of the Modern recognizes women’s contributions

Exhibition highlights contributions | Women 
in charge and women with authority recognized

Seven women who have contributed to Alberta were recognized as part of the exhibition, Mistresses of the Modern, showing at the Alberta Gallery of Art in Edmonton until June 3.

“We were doing this exhibition about female artists so we decided why not showcase these stories,” said Sandra Huculak of ATB Financial, who chaired the selection committee.

The exhibition and community awards recognized women as mistresses under the old definition of someone with authority or a woman in charge.

The one-time event recognized women in three categories: starting over, community and pioneering spirit. Nominations were accepted from the public and a judging committee selected seven winners, who were announced in April.

The featured artists were females born before 1918. All were well known for their work that went beyond the traditional landscapes favoured by many Canadian artists at the time.

Curator Mary-Beth Laviolette put together the exhibition to recognize women who were among the first generation of artists to live and work in Alberta and celebrate female trailblazers in the art community.

“Early Alberta’s story has been primarily told in terms of what the men were up to and that often related to instructors in the country,” said Laviolette.

“The contributions women made to modernism in the province hasn’t been well documented,” she said.

Many were considered hobbyists rather than serious, professional artists because being a professional implied being a male, she said.

However, these women sold work, belonged to national artist societies and entered shows across the country where they received acclaim.

Part of Laviolette.’s research included finding their work because little is available in public collections.

  • Shelley Boston of Ponoka spearheaded a fundraising campaign to bring much-needed supplies and hope to the people of Slave Lake after a fire.
  • Ilona Boyce of Calgary founded the Evenstart Foundation that offers a second chance to child victims of abuse and neglect.
  • Sue Keating of Edmonton re-searched teaching methods for autistic children and developed a teaching program for schools in Edmonton.
  • Lycia Mamprin of Calgary founded a business that has provided jobs, mentorship and friendship for many new immigrants.
  • Tracey Vavrek of Grande Prairie founded the Young Persons and Families with Cancer Society after her son was diagnosed with cancer.
  • Lillian Whitehead of Little Buffalo gave a home to dozens of children and teenagers and taught Cree at the local school.
  • Mary Woodbury of Edmonton wrote books that gave a voice to marginalized people.

Featured mistresses of art:

  • Ella May Walker
  • Thelma Manarey
  • Dorothy Henzell Willis
  • Sibyl Budde Laubental
  • Janet Mitchell
  • Marion Nicoll
  • Helen Stadelbauer
  • Margaret Shelton
  • Annora Brown
  • Laura Evans Reid

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