Mary Parris – Highlands Watercolour Artist

It all started with an old photo! When long-time Highlands resident and historian Ted Smith came across a gentleman holding an old photo on the stairs at the Highlands Golf Course, a conversation naturally ensued! It turned out the gentleman was Glenn Parris and the photo, circa 1947, was of Glenn’s mother, Highlands artist Mary Parris.

Ted’s further research lead him to the following information from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
Painter Mary Parris was born February 11, 1914, in Edmonton, Alberta. Parris became an active member of the Edmonton Sketch Club in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and decided to further her art education
at the Extension Department at the University of Alberta. She also attended a workshop at the prestigious Banff School of Fine Arts (today The Banff Centre), where she studied alongside Edmonton artist Thelma Manarey. She also studied at Emma Lake in 1959 with John Ferren, and at the Edmonton Art Gallery in 1962 and 1972. Parris was an active contributor to the Edmonton art scene, as she was a member of the Edmonton Art Club and the Alberta Society of Artists. Parris is known for her abstract watercolour and acrylic paintings. Parris did not consider her work to be entirely abstract, as she found inspiration in the weeds and the landscape. Parris was also one of the founding members of the Focus
Gallery, which was the first artist co-op gallery in Canada. Parris and Marion Nicoll exhibited together at the Focus Gallery in 1962. Her work was exhibited frequently in the 1960s, at the Edmonton Art Gallery,
the Calgary Allied Arts Centre, and in a travelling watercolour exhibition curated by the Art Gallery of Ontario.


Mary (nee Hunter) grew up on 74th Street in Virginia Park. She married Jim Parris, and their first home (built in 1941) was in the Highlands on 65th street and 114th avenue. Then in 1946 they built a home at 11307 – 65th street. They raised two children, daughter Marion, and son Glenn. Jim ran a plumbing company, Parris Plumbing.

The Parris family has deep connections to the Highlands community, to Highlands School and Highlands Golf Course. Mary attended Highlands School from 1925 to 1931. Son, Glenn, and daughter, Marion, both
attended school at Highlands and Eastglen (Glen at Highlands from about 1951 to 1961, with a couple of elementary years at Eastglen and Mount Royal, and then Eastglen from 1961 to 1964). Glenn’s wife Marlene (nee Maslanko) also attended Highlands from 1961 to 1964 and Eastglen from 1964 to 1967. Marlene’s sister Shirley attended both Highlands and Eastglen as well.

Both Jim and son Glenn golfed at Highlands Golf Course. Glenn played as a junior member, and Jim was still golfing at Highlands in his 88th year. Jim passed away in 1998 at 88 years of age.

This photo of Mary Parris sketching would have been on display at a gallery during one of her art shows. She sketched and painted all her life. Mary Parris passed away in 1988 at 74 years of age.

Written by Diane Smarsh

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