January 16 – March 14, 2003

The Lethbridge Sketch Club: Beginnings

Helen Christou Gallery

Featuring work by early members of the Lethbridge Sketch Club and their respected teachers; in conjunction with an exhibition of work by contemporary club members organized by the Bowman Arts Centre.

Across western Canada in the early part of the twentieth-century, art and sketch clubs began appearing everywhere, from the small town of Fort Macleod to the big city of Vancouver. Lethbridge was no exception and the conception of the Lethbridge Sketch Club in 1936 played a large role in developing the thriving art scene that exists in the city today. The Lethbridge Sketch Club: Beginnings showcases the works of some of the founding members of the club that are housed in the University of Lethbridge Art Collection. Works from the current members of the Lethbridge Sketch Club, now called the Lethbridge Art Club, are currently on display in a simultaneous exhibition organized by the Bowman Arts Center and located at the Yates Memorial Theatre in downtown Lethbridge.

The Club began in the home of Anna Mackenzie in October of 1936 with only a few dedicated members in attendance. Gradually their numbers grew as did the Club’s significance in the community. Often, the members could be found sketching favorite local vistas like Waterton Park, the coulees, and Henderson Lake. When weather conditions did not permit such outings, the Club met indoors to draw from still life arrangements or, occasionally, from a live model. The first Lethbridge Sketch Club group exhibition occurred in 1938 at the old Teco Store. Because of the lack of an art gallery in the city, the Club had to exhibit in venues like this or the furniture department at Eaton’s, the old Y.M.C.A., and Marquis Motors. It was not until 1964 that the group finally obtained the use of the Bowman for their permanent home.

The members of this group ensured that their influence was far-reaching. Several of the members studied for periods at the Banff School of Fine Arts, bringing back with them inspiration from many great instructors. It was often these instructors that the Club invited to Lethbridge to teach during their summer sessions. The Lethbridge Sketch Club also wanted to share ideas with the larger art community of Canada and the rest of North America. In May of 1957 the Club hosted the Conference for Community Art Classes of Southern Alberta; this event invited all of the art and sketch clubs of Southern Alberta to come together and learn from each other. Large national and international art shows were brought to Lethbridge for the first time starting in 1950 when, with the support of the Sketch Club, Lethbridge became part of the Western Canadian Art Circuit. For more than 65 years the Club has been an integral part of the Lethbridge artistic community and will no doubt continue to be for years to come.

This exhibition was organized through the Museums Studies program in the Department of Art. The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the hard work and excellent research by Shawn Van Sluys and Melissa Whitlock as part of their Museum Studies Internship.

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