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A Beautiful Legacy

Author: Amanda MacKay

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Perched on a grassy ridge between Calgary and Millarville, enjoying a sweeping 300-mile view of Alberta’s Foothills and Rocky Mountains, sits a gem. This particular treasure is not of the mineral variety… and it’s not something to be traded, sold or otherwise profited from. Rather, it is a place. A very special place, born of a legacy.

Leighton Art Centre is the Heritage Home Museum, Art Gallery and Education Centre that occupies the house and land formerly owned by two prominent Alberta artists: A.C. Leighton and Barbara Leighton. Barbara - who outlived her more famous husband by more than twenty years - decided in the 1970’s to turn their beautiful home into a space to promote the enjoyment of art, while also creating an art Education Centre in a nearby abandoned red schoolhouse. On her death in 1986, Barbara left the entire property to the charitable foundation that continues to oversee her remarkable legacy.

With a mission of inspiring all visitors to explore, appreciate and create, the centre is a vibrant space for artists, art- and nature-lovers and the thousands of school children who visit on field trips each year. Visitors go to Leighton Art Centre to explore its 80 acres of natural Foothills habitat, to create art (and learn about nature) as part of a school program, summer camp or artist workshop, or just to explore the museum and art gallery. First-time visitors are invariably hooked, planning their return visit before they’ve even left the property.

While Leighton Art Centre is a welcoming spot all year long, spring and summer are certainly high season. The Clothesline Festival & Art Sale, featuring original, unframed art and fine craft by over 60 local artists (most of which really is hung on clotheslines!) is an annual highlight. You could be forgiven for not knowing which is the bigger visual treat - the view or the art! Following the festival, it’s just a few short weeks until the centre is positively humming with the happy voices of the dozens of children who attend Art & Nature day camps each week. 

Leighton Art Centre bills itself as “a place to feel free”… and we think Barbara Leighton would approve.

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