History

  • Where Edmonton Community Artists Network (W.E.C.A.N.) Society had its beginnings rooted in the drama of the devastating tornado that tore through Edmonton on Friday, July 31, 1987. “Black Friday”, as it is known, was the worst natural disaster in Alberta in recent history and one of the worst in Canada.
  • In September 1987, Brian Clark, an Indigenous sculptor originally from Fort McMurray, and Lorraine Noel, an employee of the City of Edmonton’s Recreation and Culture Department, organized the “Artists for Tornado Relief” art auction. They assembled the art of more than 100 visual artists and staged an auction that was held less than six weeks after the “Black Friday” tornado. It raised approximately $15,000 which was distributed by the Red Cross.
  • The energy generated from this auction became the foundation for a strong community of artists. The participants wanted to sustain the spirit of the event and formed Where Edmonton Community Artists Network (W.E.C.A.N.) Society in December 1987, with Jim Painter as the Society’s first President of the Board. Shortly after, they were successful in securing Harcourt House Building with the assistance of the Alberta Ministry of Public Works as a home for the group. Harcourt House Artist Run Centre was open to the public on September 5, 1988.
  • Over the years, Harcourt House has been home to hundreds of artists. For many visual artists from Alberta, Harcourt House has been a launching pad for their artistic careers. Many of the “Alumni” from Harcourt House have excelled nationally and internationally as exhibiting artists. Others have gone on to work in academic institutions to offer their mentorship to the next generation of progressive creators and critical thinkers. Two noteworthy artists are Barbara Paterson, who conceived and produced at Harcourt House, the famous Five statue on parliament Hill in Ottawa, and Robert Sinclair, RCA, CSPWC, who maintained a watercolour studio at Harcourt House while teaching at the University of Alberta for over twenty years.