It started with a treasure box and a personal connection to a fellow artist, and now the result of more than six years of research and sleuthing by Galt Museum & Archives Curator Wendy Aitkens comes to life when the exhibition “A Legacy of Adventure & Art: The Life of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk” opens at the Galt on Saturday, June 6.
“Miss Edith Fanny Kirk, who was born in England in 1858 and lived in Lethbridge for the last 35 years of her life, painted watercolours of Lethbridge, the prairies and western National Parks, and taught many people how to create their own art,” says Aitkens. “After all, Miss Kirk had been trained in several of the most prestigious art schools in her home country.”
Miss Edith Fanny Kirk was a woman of adventure and courage who, at an early age, decided to become an artist and art teacher. For years she studied at prestigious art schools in England and France. Her need to create watercolour art encouraged Miss Kirk to attend artists’ colonies where she painted watercolour landscape and village scenes as she sat outdoors. Then, in 1905, Miss Kirk immigrated to Canada where she continued her travels and her art.
“Prior to coming to this city,” explains Aitkens, “Miss Kirk experienced travel and adventures in many intriguing places in British Columbia and along the eastern seaboard of North America. She worked mainly as an artist and art teacher during her long life, but also as a nurse’s helper in a gold mining hospital, and as a public school teacher in B.C.’s ranching country. Once she settled in Lethbridge, she continued her adventures by joining the Alpine Club of Canada at the age of 60.”
The exhibition explores the adventurous life of Miss Edith Kirk through treasures she received from her mother and those she gathered throughout her own life. Examples of her watercolour paintings, art created by one of her English teachers and a fellow student, and paintings by some of her local students are also featured. An audio tour of the Curator’s adventures in tracking Miss Kirk’s life is an integral part of the exhibition, offering an intimate glimpse into the personal connections Aitkens made with Miss Edith Kirk.