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Brigid GRANT

Brigid Elizabeth Toole Grant, of Fredericton, NB died on Tuesday, August 1, 2023, in the ICU at the Dr Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. She was predeceased by her parents, Francis James Toole and Norah Vernon (Barry) Toole, her brother Barry Toole, and her husband Richard Hope Grant. She is survived by her daughter Hannah Grant, of Fredericton NB, and her nieces Rachel Toole of Melrose, NB, and Elizabeth Toole of Whistler, BC.

Born in 1938 in Montreal, Brigid Elizabeth Toole grew up in Fredericton. Until the age of seven she lived with her family in an apartment in the Old Arts Building at the University of New Brunswick, where her parents Frank and Norah Toole taught chemistry. Brigid and her brother played in the forest and fields of the old Neville farmstead as it was transformed into the university campus, followed the ongoing war in Europe with pins on a map, and listened to their father play piano in an amateur classical quartet with other faculty members. As the university grew with the return of veterans, the Toole family shared their apartment with the first librarian of UNB, Marjorie Thompson, who then bought a house on George St. and invited them to rent the ground floor. This became the lifelong Toole family home, to which Brigid returned in 1970 when she and her husband Dick Grant bought the house and moved (with their infant daughter Han-nah) into the second floor.

Brigid’s interest in the arts and her strong connection with the natural landscape of New Brunswick were constants from childhood. After the wild edges of campus, there were the woods and river next to her parents’ summer cottage at Acamac, then the ocean and fields at their summer house in Castalia on Grand Manan island, built in her teens to include a studio space. Brigid and Dick later renovated another small summer house in Castalia, with a studio she used until the last few years of her life.

Her formal training began early. With her parents’ encouragement she took children’s classes with Pegi Nicol MacLeod, adult classes (at age 10) with Lucy Jarvis at the UNB Art Centre, and summer classes with Fritz Brandtner and Alfred Pinsky until 1960. Her parents sent her at age 14 for one year to the Quaker Hall School for girls in Somerset, England, and years later she and Dick visited to find the headmistress still had one of Brigid’s paintings on the office wall. Brigid was also committed to serious academic effort, graduating from UNB in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and philosophy, winning both the Douglas Gold Medal for best under-graduate essay (titled Michaelangelo) and the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal for the highest mark in the Faculty of Arts. At the age of 21, her proficiency in fine arts was evident at a solo show in the Art Centre, where one of her large gouache murals was purchased by Goodridge Roberts. After graduation, she left New Brunswick to study at L’ Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal, the Art Students’ League in Manhattan, and the City and Guilds School in London, England.

At their wedding in 1964, Dick, who did not want damage to his new car, decided to park on the opposite side of the river from the reception at the Riverview Arms, and surprised Brigid with a hidden canoe on the bank. Dressed in her going away outfit, and handed a paddle, she rose to the challenge and the two of them managed to avoid a log boom which filled the river fifteen minutes after they made it across. After her honeymoon, Brigid lived again on cam-pus for three years where Dick taught geology while serving as Dean of Residences. Dick Grant, like Brigid’s parents, combined a scientific profession with admiration for and interest in the arts. He had taken childhood art classes with Jack Humphrey in Saint John, and later created and performed marionette shows with Lucy Jarvis and Bruno Bobak for faculty children at UNB. Dick became Brigid’s most important supporter and best friend, bringing respect, admiration, humour, sailboats, and the chaos of a wild variety of family pets into her life, many of whom appear in her artwork.

The Toole, and then Toole-Grant, family culture was generous, intellectual, and eclectic, with an interest in international affairs and community service, as well as teaching. Norah, a rarity as a woman teaching science in the 1950’s, cofounded the local chapter of the National Voice of Women for Peace, and a Native-non-Native women’s friendship group, both of which Brigid joined, eventually becoming Fredericton’s representative on the VOW national board. Norah encouraged her daughter at age 18 to teach children’s art classes in Sitansisk, then called St. Mary’s reservation. At age 24 Brigid team taught with Molly Bobak on live television from Saint John. In 1967 she won a design competition and completed a sculptural piece to represent New Brunswick in the Atlantic Pavilion at Expo ’67.

For almost 30 years Brigid taught drawing and painting in adult extension courses and children’s Saturday morning classes at UNB. During the same period she was studio head of Drawing at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design until 1989, an instructor until 1995, and was made a Fellow of the NBCCD in 1997. She gave numerous workshops, most notably at Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre in St. Andrews, NB, where she taught for many summers with Molly Lamb Bobak and in later years (up to 2002), by herself.

Throughout her years of employment in teaching, Brigid continued making art in the media of drawing, oil, acrylic, watercolour and printmaking and exhibiting them in solo and group shows. Her paintings are in national and international collections. She participated more broadly in the arts community, for examples: as a founding member of the Fredericton Arts Alliance; as a panellist in Arts Forum 95; as a Maritime delegate to ANNPAC participating in a committee which traveled across the country addressing issues of racism in the parallel gallery network. She was on the board of directors for Gallery ConneXion and the Fredericton Public library.

Her commitment to justice and recognition for indigenous peoples included volunteering in 2000 as a witness to a fishery dispute between the local people of Esk…®nuopitijk (formerly Burnt Church First Nation) and officers of Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In 2005 she was awarded the Fredericton YMCA Peace medallion for her work in peace advocacy. She was a strong supporter of an ongoing curriculum project organized through St. Thomas University, which is working to represent indigenous history truthfully in New Brunswick schools.

Brigid Grant was in her studio only days before her final admittance to hospital, 40 days before her death. Up until that time, she read constantly and carefully and followed international affairs with knowledge and wisdom. She was an engaged, loving parent, a generous friend, a talented artist, an intellectual, and a conscientious community member, who bravely demonstrated for peace and justice while struggling for years with inadequate access to good health care. She would have liked to have had more time. She is much missed.

There will be a celebration of Brigid’s life on Wednesday, May 22, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the auditorium of Memorial Hall, on the UNB Fredericton campus, in conjunction with a retrospective show of her artwork in the adjoining galleries of the UNB Art Centre. The art show is on display until August 30. Personal condolences may be offered through http://www.yorkfh.com

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