Dale Smith was rarely without his sketchbook or paints. They were for him as essential as the tent when camping in the Rockies or the paddles on a canoe trip. Friends and family came to expect they would be his plus-one at any social event.
"The whole idea of the artist in society is they live deeply in the world they're in, and they share their human response, which is what Dale has done," said Sharon Moore-Foster, program and development coordinator for CARFAC Alberta. "He was that 'artist-man' in his normal everyday things. He had a lot of integrity in who he knew himself to be, because that was with him at all times."
Smith's death in 2017 left his estate with a sizeable body of work and the question of what to do with it. Dale Smith: Coda — Life as Seen and Experienced is a retrospective art exhibition and auction organized by his sister Janet Smith and CARFAC Alberta to both find homes for his work in private collections and celebrate his memory.
A reception is to be held at the CARFAC Alberta Project Space at 10215 112 St. on Sept. 17 from noon to 2:30pm, and the online auction will run until Oct. 7. Proceeds will be split between CARFAC Alberta and Smith's estate.
"He had a lot of paintings and sketches, and he's got some lovely pieces," said Janet Smith. "And so I've been wanting to share that with people and also donating the proceeds back into the arts."
CARFAC Alberta offers training and programs for artists, and advocates on behalf of visual artists for more equitable contracts and a fair share of the profits from their work.
Any career in the arts is notoriously unstable and accompanied by unpaid work and outstanding invoices. Smith took other work throughout his life to support his visual art, including becoming a journeyman scaffolder in his 50s, which afforded him time off between jobs to focus on his art.
"It was sort of needing to support himself, but continuing to do his art as the main focus he was very passionate about," said Janet Smith. "And he liked the lifestyle I think, too, not constrained by the nine-to-five."
The exhibition is also an attempt to address another timely issue in the Alberta arts community: As baby boomers age, how can that generation's work be preserved and documented?
"There's not very many art institutes now that have got the funding or the space for even brilliant artists to donate the pieces to," said Moore-Foster, noting that any institution accepting the art has to be equipped to look after it.
Retrospective shows and auctions could be a way for artists "who may also need their work seen and represented in order for their value to the whole Alberta art community to be recognized," Moore-Foster suggested. "Because the contributions that Dale would have made, and so many other artists that are here, it has to be recorded or put into history in some capacity."