Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alberta artist Les Manning named to Order of Canada


Medicine Hat – In recognition of a body of work that spans four decades, Medicine Hat artist Les Manning was named a Member of the Order of Canada. The announcement, which came on December 30, 2011 from Canada’s Governor General’s office, celebrated “his contributions to the promotion of ceramics, as an artist, teacher and arts advocate.”

Manning - who grew up near the community of Provost, Alberta - credits his high school art teacher, Mrs. Ruth Auburn, for encouraging him to pursue a career in the arts. Manning recalls Mrs. Auburn and her husband organizing all the necessary paperwork to enrol him in Alberta College of Art and even driving the 400km to Calgary to begin his studies. “Her trust in my skill as an artist gave me great confidence,” Manning explains. “I promised myself I would complete the [Alberta College of Art] program in her honour.”

After graduating from Alberta College of Art in 1966 with a Ceramics major, Manning spent some time working in a production studio, teaching community art classes and engaging with the Banff Centre of the Arts while squeezing some time in for studio work. In 1973, Manning was named the first Director of the Ceramics Studio at the Banff Centre and played a pivotal role in designing the facilities which made it a world-class destination for ceramic artists around the world.

During his twenty-five year tenure at the Banff Centre, Manning engaged with many arts organizations. His term as President of the Alberta Potters’ Association opened the door to become Chair of the organizing committee which brought the International Academy of Ceramics’ (IAC) assembly to Calgary and Banff in 1973. In addition, he served as Vice President of the IAC for eight of his twelve years as a member of the Council.

Manning was instrumental in the creation of the Canadian Craft Council and served as its first President until 1975. He was also President of the Alberta Craft Council from 1986 to 1988.

Following his time at the Banff Centre, Manning moved to Ontario for six years before returning to Medicine Hat, Alberta in 2001 to assist with the expansion of the Medalta International Artists in Residence program. Manning donated his time to Medalta for eight years and was instrumental in the design of new artist residency facilities – named the Shaw International Centre for Contemporary Ceramics – at the Medalta Potteries National Historic Site, which is a centrepiece of Medicine Hat’s Historic Clay District.

Medalta’s Shaw Centre marked the fourth studio facility in which Manning was heavily involved. He was also instrumental in designing studio spaces for the Haliburton School of Art, which is a satellite campus of Sir Sandford Fleming College in 2002 and the Fort Saskatchewan Pottery Guild (Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta) in 2003.

“I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of the Order of Canada than Les,” says Historic Clay District Executive Director, Barry Finkelman. “He gave us eight years as a dedicated volunteer with the goal of seeing the Shaw Centre facilities come to life. We now welcome artists from around the world and all of them are excited at the possibilities the studios present.”

Fellow ceramic artist and current Alberta College of Art & Design Instructor Greg Payce was equally thrilled with Manning’s appointment. “I have known Les for over thirty years and have watched with enthusiasm, awe, and respect as his career has developed.” Payce, who is an internationally known artist in his own right, went on to say “[Manning] is arguably the face of Canadian ceramics internationally. His selfless and tireless advocacy has truly shaped the Canadian and International contexts for both current and future generations of artists.”

Manning’s career is highlighted by his tireless commitment to community-building and acting as an advocate for the arts. In addition to his community work, Manning’s artwork is included in permanent collections around the world, including Japan, China, Egypt, Turkey and Korea.

After forty years of community service, Manning says he is looking forward to spending more time in his studio at Medalta’s Shaw Centre. “It’s incredible to even be considered for the Order of Canada. All of the efforts which got me there made for less time in the studio. Now that I’m home in Alberta, I have been able to find the time to pursue the ceramic work I really started to do forty years ago.”

A reception to celebrate Les Manning’s appointment to the Order of Canada will take place on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 7:00pm. Everyone is invited to attend and celebrate his lifelong dedication to the arts.


Text is via Quentin Randall @ The Historic Clay District.
Quentin Randall, Marketing & Fundraising Coordinator
Medalta, in the Historic Clay District
403.529.1070
quentin@medalta.org


The Historic Clay District is a 150-acre National Historic Site in Medicine Hat, Alberta which encompasses a number of historically significant clay factory sites. One of the centerpieces of the Historic Clay District is the Medalta Potteries National Historic Site, which features an industrial history museum, major industrial archaeological excavation, contemporary ceramic artists-in-residence program and working pottery. It is one of eight major attractors within the Canadian Badlands and receives significant support from the Government of Canada, Government of Alberta and City of Medicine Hat.

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