Extraordinary Women::Barbara Leighton
Paintings in a private house have much more effect on people than they do in a gallery.
"Born Barbara Mary Harvey in Plymouth, England in 1909, Barbara and her family moved to Alberta when she was three years old. At twenty, Barbara enrolled in art classes at Alberta’s Provincial Institute of Technology and Art, which is where she would meet A.C. Leighton.
In 1930 A.C. met Barbara, who was a student in one of his classes. They were married in the early morning on Sunday, May 31, 1931 and their honeymoon was spent packing into the Kananaskis area to paint. In 1931 A.C. Leighton formed the Alberta Society of Artists and was the first president. This was also the year a joint exhibition of the works of A.C. Leighton and W.J. Phillips was held at the Edmonton Museum of Art.
A.C.’s health was rapidly deteriorating and he made has last trip to England in 1962. He was admitted to the General Hospital in Calgary in May of 1965, and soon passed away. He is buried at Millarville, Alberta, not too far from Ballyhamage. In 1971 the Glenbow Institute organized a tribute through an exhibition of a survey of Leighton’s work.
Not wanting to sit around and feel sorry for herself, Barbara Leighton enrolled at ACAD, where she received a diploma in fiber and metal crafts and for two years won scholarships in Visual Arts. Barbara Leighton was already an artist in her own right as she was well known for her wood block prints rendered from A.C.’s paintings, which she signed as “Barleigh,” a combination of her christian and married surname. In 1941 she had also been elected as a member of the Canadian Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and belonged to the Alberta Society of Artists).
At ACAD she found the support of young artists who were attracted to the Leighton history and the artistic and natural wealth of their home and property. In 1970 Barbara sold half of her quarter-section to invest in the purchase for $1,000 of the abandoned 1919 Ballyhamage one-room schoolhouse. Her friends pitched in to help restore the old schoolhouse and convert it to an art studio. A few years later, a weaving studio and pottery studio were added, but the red one-room schoolhouse remains to this day the heart of the Centre’s children’s programs.
In 1974 with the support of her friends, Barbara officially opened the Leighton Centre. The Centre had quickly become a gathering place for budding and professional artists and children. Many had come to discover their artistic talents by exploring the beauty found in the Leightons’ home and surrounding fields. Barbara turned her home into a gallery and museum so that she could exhibit A.C.’s paintings, as well as works by other prominent Alberta artists such as Stan Perrott, Barbara Ballachey, Jim and Marion Nicoll, Rick Grandmaison, Janet Mitchell, Roland Gissing, lllingworth Kerr, and sculptor Richard Roenisch.
Read a 1979 Western Living Magazine article about Barbara Leighton and the history of Leighton Art Centre." ~ The Leighton Art Centre
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