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Finding a Voice: a Historiography
Finding a Voice: a Historiography forms the beginnings of a historiography of craft in Alberta. This is an ongoing, multifaceted project that requires input from the community and from those who attended the college or knew the individuals who taught there in the early 1900s. It is an opportunity to tell the stories that contribute to ACAD’s rich history, and to uncover historical and cultural treasures as yet unknown.
Dr. Jennifer Salahub is a craft historian who arrived in Alberta 13 years ago and gradually became obsessed with researching and writing about what wasn’t there – the history of craft at the Alberta College of Art + Design.
While there are several histories of the College, there is little that recognizes the role that craft and those teaching craft have played in this history. There is no extant list of teachers who taught craft, nor is much known about the early years.
Salahub’s research may even re-establish the founding of ACAD from 1926 to 1916, as her research has uncovered Annuals (course offerings) published by the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA) during the 1920s suggest that art and craft courses were already being offered during this time. Her research of this period has also shown that craft education at the College was tied to the Educational Sloyd Movement in Canada.
Salahub’s research delves into the history of selected individuals who taught at the College, including the well-known painter and print maker Marion Nicoll (1900–1985).
After graduating from the PITA, Nicoll travelled to London (1938–1939), where she studied craft at what is now Central St. Martins. She was the first woman hired to a permanent position, and according to most historians, it was assumed she taught painting.
In fact, Nicoll was hired to teach craft and design. A strong proponent for Alberta craft in the midcentury, when Nicoll retired it is generally acknowledged that it took four men to replace her. One of those was Luke Lindoe (1913–2000), who taught ceramics, and for whom the ACAD library was named.
One of the key reasons this history must be written is we currently have access to a generation of makers taught by the likes of Marion Nicoll and Luke Lindoe. It is also critical now more than ever, as craft publications were treated as ephemera by academics of the time, and thus were often not indexed and mostly relegated to the basements and attics of the artists. While these materials still exist, it’s important they are found and included.
Salahub sees her research as the first step in the establishment of ACAD as a centre for craft studies. Beginning with an exhibition (The History of Craft at ACAD in 100 objects), she hopes ACAD will eventually be able to support a wesbite/database. ACOR (Alberta Craft On-line Resource) is the working title for this tool, which would contain a general history of craft as well as an ongoing history of the four craft areas (ceramics, jewellery and metals, textiles, and glass).
This resource would serve the greater craft community, enabling people to find lists of teachers and their biographies, as well as images of their work and related publications about the artist, their work, and their exhibitions.