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Mary Filer: renowned Canadian artist continues to influence future generations

Untitled, Still Life w. Teapot, 10-5-61, wc and ink on paper

An immensely talented artist, Mary Filer worked in multiple media. Initially trained as a watercolour painter under John Lyman and Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer, she was also a pioneer in stained glass sculpture. Her dynamic, contemporary glass works were like nothing else being created during the 1960s with large shards, geometric shapes and sharp edges. Inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2005, her works are part of many permanent collections across Canada.


Born in 1920 in Edmonton, Alberta, Mary seldom stayed in one place long. She studied and created art in Montreal, New York City and London before settling in Victoria and finally Vancouver, where she was profoundly influenced by the rugged, West coast landscape.


Although she achieved great success, Mary struggled to make a living early in her career. Fortunately, "her father often helped her buy much-needed supplies and even, on occasion, paid Mary's rent," explains Mary's nephew, Rory Filer.


That experience stuck with Mary, and she always sought ways to support the next generation of artists. Says Rory, "she enjoyed getting to know younger artists, and she and husband Harold would often host events in their studio-home on West 7th Avenue in Vancouver to bring people together. Mary was known for her generosity, her creativity and her support for the artistic community."


Mary's generosity extended to her many donations of artworks to the SFU Gallery collection as well as the installation of one of her striking, colourful glass sculptures at SFU's Harbour Centre campus in 1990. She established the Mary Filer Fund in support of contemporary arts students and made provisions in her estate for the establishment of the Mary Filer Bursary at SFU. Her commitment to art and education lives on through this bursary - helping emerging visual arts students pursue their passion, just as her father once supported hers.