Monday, March 13, 2017

Annora Brown: Educator

Totem, Tipi and Tumpline
by Olive M. Tyner and Clara L. Fisher, illustrated by Annora Brown
image from

Joyce Sasse - Annora Brown was a teacher, as was her mother. Teachers convey ideas to their students and through their students. She did this by choice of subject matter and the belief that her world was vibrant with possibility.

As the recipients of her gifts, how are we the benefactors? What part of the legacy have you (knowingly or unknowingly) received and can pass on?

Look at the children’s books she illustrated. In Totem, Tipi and Tumpline (a children’s book she illustrated) I not only learned what a tumpline is, but I marveled at how bold and authentic the writers and illustrator of this book were to publish it, in the early 50’s, in a country then committed to obliterating aboriginal cultures. We now have Blackfoot elders and teachers looking closely at the book to see if parts of it can be used as a teaching tool in the current time of reconciliation.

What about Annora Brown’s role as an art educator. Was she cutting edge with her painting techniques? Who else used casein? How did she learn about it and recognize it as a means that would help her paint quickly when time was at a premium?

If you were to start with a brief story about her doings, I suspect a class of 8-year-olds would enthusiastically muse over what she was like when she was little!

There were those who bemoaned how sad it was for her to stay in a settlement like Fort Macleod in the 30’s. “If you went to France”, they told her, “you could find something really beautiful to paint!” And also suggested she could find a husband there. I’m sure some of today’s youth would have a great time role-playing this scene.

Why did Annora Brown have such difficulty gaining recognition as an artist in Alberta? Did it have to do with her coming from a rural community? Do these rural-urban distinctions still exist? What did she do to gain recognition in spite of the differences? Great stories lie behind those great paintings!

Annora Brown’s Paintings at the Glenbow:

Click here for more about Annora Brown

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