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The Leighton Art Centre Today

A Centre for the Community (captions available in both French and English). View this video with an English transcript.

The paintable view was the main reason A.C. purchased the quarter section, and once you visit and see the grass against the blue sky, you will agree. In his sketchbooks are countless variations of that view and artists have been continuing this tradition since the 1970s. Every year many gather for the annual “Paint-Out” to paint en plein air in the landscape. The sketches, paintings and other work created here can often be seen on the walls in the gift shop and gallery so you too can take a piece of the Leighton Centre home.

In this picturesque location, the Leighton Centre has provided artistic inspiration, support and education for artists, children and the general public since 1970. Today the centre, under a wide blue sky, has over 25,000 visitors per year and provides a wide range of programming. That includes school field trips almost every day of the school year, children’s summer camps, adult workshops, art exhibitions and other special events.

With a mission of inspiring all visitors to explore, appreciate and create the centre has indeed become a vibrant space for artists, art and nature lovers, and the thousands of children who visit each year. Visitors go to the Leighton Art Centre to roam over its 80 acres of breathtaking natural foothills habitat, or to create art and learn about nature.

The Leighton Art Centre is a welcoming spot all year long, located under the big sky of Alberta’s foothills. Anyone can attend the special events, like the annual Clothesline Festival & Art Sale in May. This unique event features original, unframed art and fine craft by over 60 local artists (with most of the art actually hung on clotheslines!). It’s hard to say which is the bigger visual treat, the view or the art!

Colour photograph of group of children on a deck, wearing tie-dyed t-shirts and facing a red building.

Summer camp at the Leighton Art Centre, 2018

Later in the summer, the laughter of children can be heard echoing around the property. As Barbara devoted her summers to children, the Leighton Centre continues this tradition today. Kids come over five days to learn about nature and to creatively use that inspiration in their projects. At the end of the week, the children proudly tour their parents around the property. They stop at the gallery to tell the story of Barbara and A.C., they demonstrate how their voice echoes across the valley on Echo Hill and they show off their masterpieces. This becomes a tradition for many families, and we have seen children who attended years ago return with their children and grandchildren.

Colour photograph of a large group of people laughing in an art gallery setting.

Guests at an exhibition opening reception, 2019

Barbara’s home art gallery still exists. The “Great Room,” with the large windows that look across the vast expanse of the foothills toward the mountains, is naturally dedicated to the work of A.C. Leighton. The atrium, where Barbara spent much of her time enjoying tea with friends and neighbours, exhibits her block prints and textiles. The rest of the house is for contemporary artists, whether young or old, emerging or professional. The exhibition programming has included everything from youth shows for local high school students, work created by the summer camp’s students to plein air exhibitions by artist members and contemporary painting with artists from as far away as China. It is a diverse and international space, this little house tucked out in the foothills.

It is a magical place to visit. First-time visitors are invariably hooked, planning their return visit before they’ve even left the property. Leighton Art Centre bills itself as, “a place to feel free”, and we think the Leightons would approve.

Colour photograph of landscape with and eight silver coin-operated horses lined up in from of mountain panorama.

Lisa Brawn’s Helios, 2016