Oral History Project appeals for contributions

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and University Archives is calling on Albertans to assist in a historical project in support of their vast Nicholas de Grandmaison collection of artworks and artifacts.

A cultural icon of southern Alberta, artist Nicholas de Grandmaison (1892-1978) captured the history of the region and its First Nations people in an entirely distinctive and personal manner.

As an itinerant painter, de Grandmaison often stayed with ranchers, farmers and Aboriginal families for several days at a time while he painted their portraits. His unique lifestyle, character and attitude having left a plethora of interesting experiences that augment the context of his paintings.

It is these stories that the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and the University Archives are looking to tell through an Oral History Project that will complement the University's de Grandmaison collection of artworks and artifacts. They are currently seeking contributions from the Alberta community.

"By compiling an oral history, we really want to give the de Grandmaison collection another layer of meaning," says Karissa Patton (BA '13), a recent U of L graduate who is returning for graduate studies this fall and who is working with third-year Native American Studies student Maria Livingston on compiling the oral history pieces.

"The collection is remarkable, but in some instances we might only have the name of the person featured in the painting, and in others, we have no information at all. When you look at how the subjects are depicted, you can see that there is a story there that is just waiting to be told."

Working under the guidance of University Archivist Mike Perry and Lisa Doolittle of the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts, Patton and Livingston have contacted various members of the Kainai, Siksika and Piikani First Nations, searching for those people who may have had contact either with de Grandmaison or any of the subjects featured in his paintings.

"It doesn't have to be a story from someone who was actually painted, it can be anything from that era that adds to the story of
de Grandmaison's visits and work," says Patton. "Even the smallest of recollections help to create a larger narrative."

BMO Financial Group recently donated 67 original de Grandmaison pastel portraits to the University of Lethbridge's already comprehensive collection of artworks and artifacts. They have been featured in the
U of L Art Gallery exhibition Nicholas de Grandmaison: Recent Acquisitions, which concludes Thursday, June 27. On Tuesday, June 25, a Closing Reception and Hoop Dance Performance will be held at 7 p.m. in the U of L Art Gallery.

"It's been wonderful to be able to present these de Grandmaison works to the public," says Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Dr. Josephine Mills. "The BMO donation has significantly enhanced our collection and really inspired us to search for ways in which we can encourage new work from First Nations artists. I think this Oral History Project is an excellent way to give even more context to these works and bring our Alberta history to life."

For those looking to take part in the project, access the following website for more information:, call 403-380-1868 or e-mail