Project Description


Born in 1916 and the only child of a Calgary lumber magnate, Margaret Hess, or Marmie, as everyone called her, might have been expected to live a predictable life for someone of her station at the time – high-society, marriage, children.
Instead she blazed a different trail, dedicating her life to higher education, community service and the arts.
After graduating in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Toronto, Margaret embarked on what would become a lifelong love for (and academic career in) art and art history that took her around the world and to all corners of Canada.
“The visuals that artists leave us are gifts — of history, of a place and people,” she said.
In 1947, she completed her post-graduate studies at the University of Iowa and over the next decade her backcountry travels following the routes of the early explorers introduced her to what would become her passion: Inuit and First Nations art.
During the same time, she also purchased the Spencer Creek Ranch in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Cochrane, overseeing its successful ranching operations.
She taught at what would become the Alberta College of Art and Design and the Banff School of Fine Arts, as well as establishing the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary. In 1970 she founded Calgary Galleries, one of the country’s first venues to feature aboriginal art and share it with the wider public.
When Margaret passed away in 2016, her cousin, Barry Clayton, described the internationally recognized art historian and expert on Inuit and First Nations art, who had also distinguished herself in business and ranching, with sublime understatement, saying, “she led a life rather different than most women of her generation.”