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Annual Barb Brooks art sale returns to Jasper

Barb Brooks

Barb Brooks painting

Six years ago, Jasper lost one of its most prolific painters.

Barb Brooks, a well respected watercolour painter both locally and abroad, passed away at the age of 68 in the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge, leaving a hole in Jasper’s arts community.

To keep her memory alive, for the past five years two $500 scholarships have been given out in Brooks’ name to artists wishing to pursue an arts degree or wishing to attend workshops or residencies.

The scholarship is administered by Jasper’s local arts organization, It Only Takes a Dream (IOTAD).

To replenish the Barb Brooks Arts Scholarship, each year a selection of paintings is released and sold, along with prints of some of Brooks’ most famous works. This year that sale will take place at the SnowDome Coffee Bar on the evening of Dec. 10.

Brooks is most well known for her paintings of aspen stands and wildflowers amongst Jasper’s mountain vistas. Most of those iconic paintings have been sold over the years, but IOTAD has hundreds of others to choose from.

Marianne Garrah, who organizes the annual art sale, said there are actually so many canvases that she hasn’t even been able to open all of the boxes to see what’s there.

“Little surprises come out every year,” said Garrah. “Many of these have never been seen.”

This year, as Garrah was flipping through some of Brooks’ paintings, she discovered one depicting a CN train passing through the trees, with Mount Robson in the background.

“That one was a surprise,” she said, noting that she’ll be making prints and selling them at the sale.

“Barb worked for the rail way back when she was raising her kids,” said Garrah.

Brooks had all kinds of jobs over the years. Before picking up a paint brush in her 30s, she worked odd jobs around Jasper—whether it was looking after the plants in a restaurant to baking bread for Tekkara Restaurant. As well as her paintings, she was well known for her bread.

Brooks was primarily a self-taught painter, but she also attended workshops around Canada and the United States. She dabbled in all different styles, but her inspiration was Jasper’s natural environment.

Brooks painted for more than 20 years in Jasper, and her work appears in many private and government collections. The Canadian government has chosen many of her works to appear in government buildings across Canada and abroad. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge commissioned her to paint many paintings, which were later moved to the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge.

In 1994, she was the first Canadian artist to have a solo exhibit in South Korea, and at that show, she sold each and every piece she had on display.

That was the peak of her career.

As well as painting in Korea and Japan, Brooks also taught at Red Deer College, and was the Artist in Residence at the University of Calgary’s stream ecology program.

When preparing for the annual showing of Brooks’ paintings, Garrah goes through the artists’ portfolio and selects a variety of styles.

This year, to add to the event, Garrah has expanded it to include seven other artists, including herself. For the first time, Garrah will be selling her own linocuts prints. Local artists Tristan Overy, Ann Hoffele and Sylvie Walsh will also be selling their goods, as will a few artists from the Robson Valley.

Artists interested in the Barb Brooks Arts Scholarship are encouraged to visit to find out more information about eligibility for the $500 award.

Nicole Veerman

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