‘It was a gift’

Cher­ished ca­reer as war art his­to­rian earns Or­der of Canada nod for for­mer Is­land res­i­dent

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE -

Laura Bran­don is quick to credit her work on P.E.I. with pro­vid­ing the ground­ing for a lauded ca­reer in preserving and pro­mot­ing war art.

She ar­rived in P.E.I. in 1979 with her hus­band, Robert, and the cou­ple’s then small child.

The pair would add two Is­land-born chil­dren to the clan as Bran­don be­came im­mersed in the world of art.

She cu­rated her first ex­hibits in P.E.I. and she con­ducted her first lec­tures here.

She wrote about art in the prov­ince and, at UPEI, she taught about the sub­ject.

Bran­don worked for the P.E.I. Coun­cil of the Arts, in­clud­ing serv­ing for a time as chair­woman.

While here, she also wrote the draft for her award-win­ning book en­ti­tled “Pegi by Her­self: The Life of Pegi Ni­col MacLeod, Cana­dian Artist”.

This ex­pe­ri­ence amassed in Prince Ed­ward Is­land over her 14-year stay in the prov­ince proved to be the base for her re­mark­able 22-year ca­reer as art his­to­rian with the Cana­dian War Mu­seum.

“I do want to em­pha­size that P.E.I. gave me the tools and ex­pe­ri­ence to work with what was a gift, which was the war art,’’ she told The Guardian in an in­ter­view from her home in Ottawa.

She didn’t just work with war art. She shone on it the bright­est imag­in­able light.

Last month, she was ap­pointed to the Or­der of Canada for her “con­tri­bu­tions to un­cov­er­ing and preserving Cana­dian war art, and for bring­ing it to the at­ten­tion of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences.’’

Friends of the Cana­dian War Mu­seum praise Bran­don for play­ing a piv­otal role in build­ing the mu­seum’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized col­lec­tion of war art.

Bran­don cu­rated more than 40 tem­po­rary and trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tions be­fore re­tir­ing one year ago. She re­mains in­volved with the mu­seum as a re­search as­so­ciate; she is also teach­ing about war art part-time at Car­leton Univer­sity in Ottawa.

Her past ex­hi­bi­tions in­clude A Brush with War: Mil­i­tary Art from Korea to Afghanistan, which trav­elled across Canada from 2008 to 2012; Can­vas of War, which re­ceived the Cana­dian Mu­seum As­so­ci­a­tion’s Award of Ex­cel­lence in 2000; and Art and War: The Se­cond World War Art of Aus­tralia, Bri­tain and Canada, which opened at the new Cana­dian War Mu­seum in 2005 and later trav­elled to the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum and the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial.

A num­ber of the ex­hi­bi­tions she has cu­rated have come to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts. She has also lec­tured on war art in P.E.I.

Bran­don says when she ar­rived at the Cana­dian War Mu­seum, she rec­og­nized that war art was not just war art but that the work rep­re­sented a com­mu­nity that had a very strong bond of pur­pose.

“I felt very much work­ing with war art that I was a part of a group,’’ she says. “It was a gift.’’ So Bran­don is quick to share her nod to the Or­der of Canada with war artists.

“Their work is not go­ing to be for­got­ten,’’ she says. “I’m just proud that it is out there.’’

BILL KENT, CANA­DIAN WAR MU­SEUM/SPE­CIAL TO THE GUARDIAN

Laura Bran­don, who spent 14 years work­ing on P.E.I. in the art field and rais­ing a fam­ily, was named to the Or­der of Canada in late De­cem­ber. She played a piv­otal role in build­ing the Cana­dian War Mu­seum’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized col­lec­tion of war art.

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