History of the Arts in Cochrane

[Note: This History page is a work in progress. I would love to hear from those of you who could add more to this picture.]

Cochrane is a truly amazing arts community today. It also has an interesting history when it comes to the arts.

One of the early arts groups was the Cochrane Art Club which began in the fall of 1959 by Einar Kumlin and Bob Graham. Roy Downs, a well-known local artist was a founding member. This year (2017) the Cochrane Art club celebrates its 59th anniversary, and is still going strong!

Studio West, a world-class bronze foundry was founded here in 1970 by Don & Shirley Begg. In the years since they have created many bronzes of their own as well as ones for numerous internationally known artists and sculptors. You can see one of Don’s bronzes honoring our pioneer women in the Centennial Plaza in downtown Cochrane.

In the late 1980’s I met Mac Mackenzie who was a western artist and sculptor. His statue, Men of Vision, has graced the bluff overlooking the Cochrane Ranche park for the past 38 years since being placed there in May of 1979.

I came to Cochrane in 1986 and a few months later was introduced to Jack Tennant, owner of the Cochrane This Week newspaper. He asked me to write an Arts & Crafts column for his paper and so I began what would become a very interesting journey for me.

Just a few months later, thanks to a question from a reader, we started the Cochrane Artisans Guild – a group for all the artisans and crafts people of Cochrane. That ran for a number of years and became a meeting and learning place for local creatives. We hosted a number of shows and sales.

Since I had become familiar with the arts in Cochrane, I got the arts businesses together and we started promoting the arts. We developed a number of tourism promotions including a brochure to go into the Alberta tourist centers, and the famous See How We Do It yearly event. The arts businesses brought in a number of their artists and craftspeople to do demos throughout the day. I can remember trying to get into some of those places during those weekends and finding them so crowded you could hardly squeeze in. They were certainly very popular.

In 1995 my husband and I moved away from Cochrane for business reasons, and then returned in 2005. As I was able, I started to explore the arts again and my sense was that Cochrane needed an arts council kind of group to promote all of the arts in Cochrane. So in the summer of 2008, I put up a website called Arts Cochrane and started contacting people. That fall I hosted a BBQ at the Cochrane Ranche and invited the arts community to come together. I was really thrilled that out of that meeting we came up with a team that then started working together to promote the arts here in Cochrane.

One of the early initiatives was to incorporate Arts Cochrane as a non-profit group – which then became ACFC – the Arts and Culture Foundation of Cochrane.

Unfortunately for me, about that time my husband’s health took a turn for the worse and I ended up having to bow out. Maxine Herbert took over as president from me and over the next several years the ACFC accomplished some pretty amazing things.

One of the projects they worked on was working with the town about building an Arts and Culture facility. There was a lot of good work done on that, including a feasibility study. From what I know at this point, that was taken off the town agenda at some point, but there is hope that it will be added again in the near future. This is where an arts council could certainly help to work with the town on that.

After my husband passed away in early 2017, I starting thinking again about the arts here in Cochrane and that dream I had for this community when I started Arts Cochrane 9 years ago. In September I discovered that ACFC had disbanded earlier this year. I was sad to hear that, but I wasn’t convinced that it was a dead idea. So I started asking around, and the feedback I was getting was that people were still interested in an arts council kind of group.

So I’m starting the way I did back then – with a website to start giving people a place to come and learn about the arts.

As I am getting back into the community and exploring what’s going on with the arts, I am delighted and excited all over again at all the incredible stuff that is coming out of the woodwork. People I had no idea were artists – and pretty amazing ones at that! Or groups I had no idea existed.

This website started on October 1st, so there’s lots of work to be done. I have more ideas than I can shake a stick at, so there will be lots of additions in the days to come. I am so excited to be able to start telling this community and the world again what an awesome place Cochrane is for the arts.

If you want to get in on all the good stuff that I’ll be discovering, sign up for the Basic Membership – which is free! You’ll get the weekly Discovering Cochrane Arts newsletter which will update you on all the latest things that I am aware of.