Mrs. Tuck’s tapestries are executed on linen, in the tradition of those which recorded their maker’s life and time for the walls of the churches and castles of the Old World. And yet they are uniquely “pioneer” in nature.
In her earlier years in the area she did much experimenting in the use of native plants for dyeing the wool which she spun. The soft, muted colours were the product of countless hours of digging roots, gathering leaves, flowers and fruits, extracting the juices, and dyeing the yarn.
Mrs. Tuck is a true “amateur” in that she uses her talents not for herself but to teach others. Her church has been beautified by her handiwork, but also for the last sixty years she has been teaching others the joy of fine craftsmanship in home-making arts through the Women’s Institutes and by personal instruction.
The cultural life of numberless women has been enriched by Esme Tuck’s creative hands employed always for others.
Another pioneer with a gift for painting came to the frontier in the person of Helen Piper — later Helen Piper Brown. For several decades after 1912 she was the only painter in the district.
Mrs. Phyllis Kench lived among us during World War II capturing the beauty of the scenery in watercolours that reflected her training under outstanding British artists. Unfortunately, ill health forced her to return to Britain. Those who knew her saw the land with new perception of its beauty.
The Beaverlodge – Grande Prairie district was fortunate to have Miss Euphemia McNaught who studied with the Group of Seven under Arthur Lismer.
Perhaps the greatest impetus to the cause of art in Dawson Creek was the contribution of Mr. James Clark of Pouce Coupe although he would undoubtedly be the most emphatic in denying it. After World War II he became Chairman of the School District, after a long-time service in many capacities besides his job as the postmaster of Pouce Coupe.
The village of Dawson Creek had become almost a city during the Alaska Highway boom. It fell to “Jimmy” Clark and his Board to build a High School, which was to be the best in British Columbia at that time. In the plan, from the first, was an exceptional Art Room, including a big electric kiln for ceramics. Largely at their own expense the Board members toured southern British Columbia and the western United States to find the most modern facilities.
To South Peace High School in 1950 came a teacher, Mr. Kenneth T. Weir. Mr. Weir’s talents in art were varied, and in all he excelled. Undoubtedly his greatest contribution was bringing out in others the latent talents they had. Immediately, Night School classes in various subjects kept the new building lighted almost every night of the week.
A nucleus of painters, who had been meeting in one another’s homes to paint for fun, began to study seriously under his leadership. They soon grew into the South Peace Art Society which still thrives.
Mr. Weir fond in the native clays a medium for experimental work in ceramics which he carried on for five years, both in school and in adult classes. He stressed creativity; he would teach any one the method, but not “what to do”. He experimented with glazes compatible with our clays, and with modifications of native clays to control shrinking or warping. His contribution to a large number of young people and adults was the joy of working with the oldest art medium on the earth. A painstaking craftsman, somebody said that Ken Weir could do anything well, from building a garage to designing jewelry and tailoring a suit. The inspiration his students caught from him was displayed in the largest and most comprehensive Art Show in the history of Dawson Creek, held in the Old Art Room of South Peace High School.
Mr. Warren Gaylor spent his childhood in Hudson’s Hope. Indirectly he made a notable contribution to local art circles by introducing the late Professor J. B. Taylor to the grandeur of the canyon. “Jack”, as he was informally called, came back year after year, on a sort of pilgrimage, meanwhile, giving of his talents each time from 1951 to 1970 to conduct workshops for local art enthusiasts.
Recognizing the talents of Mr. Weir by his students’ accomplishments, Professor Taylor offered him a position at the Banff Summer School of the Arts, but being more interested in further study, Mr. Weir declined at that time .
Professor Taylor’s connection with the Extension Department of the University of Alberta helped to extend the tour of the famous Mr. A. Y. Jackson and Miss Frances Loring into B. C. Professor Taylor sparked the formation of the Dawson Creek Art Group when the inspiration of his visit and that of the distinguished artists occurred at the same time. The Art Group has continually expanded its activities and its contributions to the community.
Workshops from a few days’ to two weeks’ duration have been presented annually (recently twice a year) through the assistance of the grants from the British Columbia Cultural Fund.
The late Professor J. B. Taylor presented an annual workshop from 1951 – 1970 inclusive. Other instructors have been from:
University of B. C. – John Mills, Cliff Robinson, Jan Thomas, and Gordon Smith
Vancouver School of Art – Peter Aspell
Department of Fine Arts & Extension,
“Looking at Modern Art, a Living Room Learning Course” was chaired by Mrs. Marjorie Coutts.
In 1962 the Dawson Creek Arts Group expanded and registered as South Peace Art Society continuing the sponsor Art Exhibitions and Workshops.
The City of Dawson Creek with the late Mr. Glen Braden as Mayor built the Art Gallery-Museum onto the Tourist Bureau. Since the Art Gallery opened June 2, 1965, exhibitions have been continuous.
Exhibitions have included:
Group and one-man Exhibitions of local members’ works.
Exchange Exhibitions with local art groups of Whitehorse, Williams Lake, Fort St. John, and Grande Prairie, Alberta.
Department of Extension, University of Alberta.
Department of Cultural Activities, Province of Alberta,
Glenbow Foundation, Calgary,
Canadian Industries, Ltd., Montreal,
Sudeten Exhibition Artists Guild of Germany and Canadian Sudeten artists,
Gems of Textile Handicraft and Albrecht Durer Prints through the Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany,
Alistair Bell, Burnaby Art Gallery,
Jack Shadbolt and Portraits and People, Vancouver Art Gallery,
Portraits of Nature, B. C. Centennial ‘71 Committee and B. C. Cultural Fund Advisory Committee
3 Exhibitions by J. B. Taylor (one from Jacox Gallery)
Department of Fine Arts, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Since early in 1962 a “Painting of the Month” is chosen for the foyer of the City Hall from local artists. For several years one was also chosen monthly and displayed in the Tourist Bureau.
Picture rental was inaugurated in March of 1962 and is held the last Friday of a month except summer holidays and December.
Meetings are held on the third Thursday of a month – business is followed by an Educational Art Program.
One member, a past President is now the senior member, having been active since the club’s organization.
A series of free Children’s Art Classes in spring and fall are presented in the Art Gallery. Mrs. Edna McPhail as Instructor with two helpers, introduced these classes in 1970 and they continue to be very popular.
Paintings are donated by members to St. Joseph’s General Hospital, Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe Community Hospital, Pouce Coupe, also “Rotary Harbour”, Dawson Creek, and “Peace Manor”. Exhibitions are provided for Hospital W. A. Teas, Winter and Summer Fairs, Special Community Events and other similar events.