Daly's sketches provide unique record

By Rob Alexander - Canmore

Two new exhibits at the Canmore Museum are helping put a new face on the history of Canmore and the Bow Valley.

Kathleen Daly: Faces of the Bow Valley and 100 Views of the Eastern Bow Valley, both of which open Friday evening (July 6) 7 p.m. with an informal tour of the exhibits, explore a Bow Valley that has come and gone - but in some cases, is still with us.

Faces of the Bow Valley feature portraits and landscapes of Kathleen Daly, an artist noted for her sketches of Canmore mines and miners, who spent a year-and-a-half living in Canmore from 1944 into 1946 as she recuperated from polio.

100 Views of the Eastern Bow Valley, meanwhile, is a collection of 100 historic images ranging in dates from the late-1880s up to the late-1980s and the modern corresponding view, taken by Rob Alexander, Outlook reporter and Bow Valley historian.

It's a broad-stroke take on capturing 'then-and-now' of an entire region that Edward van Vliet, museum curator, said helps to show how much change has occurred in the past 124 years since the railway arrived.

"In the context of that, this is a way of giving people a visual idea of how things have changed in the Bow Valley," van Vliet said Tuesday (July 3).

Being able to see the change provides a more physical and more concrete image than words alone could do.

"You realize that things have changed and can see the extent of it," he said.

The extent van Vliet is referring to is the rise and subsequent fall of the coal-mining towns of Anthracite, Bankhead and Georgetown, or how Canmore and Exshaw have essentially hung in there, evolving with the times.

The historic and modern images also act as a reminder that as a community we have a rich history worth telling and sharing.

"I think these images are a good reminder of how important it is to hold on to your history and anything that records that history," van Vliet said.

For this exhibit, roughly half the historic images were found in the Canmore Museum archives, while the other half were selected primarily from the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary.

That had van Vliet questioning the need to go to Calgary to find historic images of the Bow Valley. It also led him to ask Bow Valley residents with significant images or information to consider donating or lending it to the Canmore museum.

"If we are going to represent the history, the Canmore museum part shows we need people who have images and information to share their information and photos," he said, adding it is ironic the Canmore museum has to go to Calgary to find images of the Bow Valley.

Complementing the 100 views is the unique and very significant work of Daly (1898-1994) - the wife of noted war artist George Pepper - who, like many painters, became captivated by the Rocky Mountains.

"Kathleen Daly came out of a generation of women who for the first time could really pursue a career and practice a profession in art. They were kind of the first generation that really had a kick at the can," museum administrator Mary-Beth Laviolette said.

Unlike numerous other painters who arrived in the West, Daly found a muse in the less-polished environs of the mines and ranches of the eastern Bow Valley over the cleaner and more polished nature of Banff.

"She was very, very unique because if you think about those times, she was interested in the social life. She was interested in people.

"Plus she was here in Canmore where she could see a different side to life in the Bow Valley. It wasn't about tourism and enjoying the scenery and so on and so forth."

She chose Canmore over Banff partly because of cost, Laviloette said, and partly because she preferred to be in a community of familiar faces.

Those faces, including members of the Stoney-Nakoda First Nation who Daly befriended, grace the museum exhibition, along with a selection of landscapes and views of Canmore in 1944.

Most of Daly's work is today housed in the Medicine Hat Museum and Art Gallery. In 1987, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies featured her sketches and paintings in an exhibit entitled Canmore Workings.

"She really provided very unique insights into the community. I sort of consider her Canmore's first artist. Even though she was only here for 18 months, she really immersed herself into the community," Laviolette said.

To further explain the importance of Daly's work, Canmore-born JoAnna Dutka, professor of English at University of Toronto, who knew the artist will present during Friday's openings.

Laviolette, van Vliet and Alexander will also be on hand to lead an informal tour of the new exhibitions.


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