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Thread: Marion MacRae

  1. #1

    Default Marion MacRae

    An inspirational teacher, who taught at OCA:

    She took joy in sharing her knowledge; An architectural historian spread her passion for art and esthetics to her students, colleagues and the public

    Charles Enman
    26 August 2008
    Ottawa Citizen

    Someone once called Marion MacRae "Upper Canada's architectural historian," and the fit of the phrase was obvious.

    Ms. MacRae wrote a series of books that spoke of Ontario history through the buildings of its early history. The first, The Ancestral Roof, published in 1963 with co-author Anthony Adamson, read this history through private homes dating back to the late 18th-century arrival of the Loyalists. In 1975, the pair published Hallowed Walls, an exploration of early religious architecture in Ontario that won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. Their final collaboration from 1983 was Cornerstones of Order, which looked at pre-20th-century courthouses and townhouses in the province. The Ancestral Roof, 45 years after its publication, is still used in university architecture and art history classes.

    For her work, Ms. MacRae was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982.

    Quite apart from her writing, Ms. MacRae taught several generations of students at the Ontario College of Art and Design -- which she entered in 1943 as a student and only left 43 years later, upon her retirement as a professor of design history.

    Though she spent much of her life in Toronto, Ms. MacRae had strong connections to the Ottawa area. She was born and grew up in Apple Hill in Glengarry County, and died on Aug. 11 at Glengarry Memorial Hospital, after spending the past decade at Maxville Manor in Maxville. She was 87.

    William Hodge studied under Ms. MacRae at OCAD and later, when he joined faculty, came to know her as a colleague. "If you ask nearly anyone about Marion, you're going to hear the word 'amazing,' simply because no other word quite describes how she was as a teacher, scholar, or human being."

    There were several things that always struck him about Ms. MacRae. She always conveyed a feeling of equality, of stepping beyond any sense of rank, when she dealt with students. She could make connections between developments in historical design even in societies separated by oceans, the kinds of connections that no one else in Mr. Hodge's experience seemed to make. And her love of her subject was absolute and contagious. "Marion was never putting anyone down or herself up -- she just took tremendous joy in sharing her knowledge, of giving it away, and you never left a conversation without feeling that you had learned something from her."

    Her writing was as approachable as her teaching style. Anyone with a high school education and curiosity could have a gratifying encounter with her books, Mr. Hodge said, a compliment he would not pay to most academic writing.

    Her nephew, Allan MacRae, of Hayward, California, recalled spending hundreds of childhood hours with her at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. "What was remarkable was how much detail she could convey about the objects we would look at. We might examine a piece of jade, something perhaps 2,000 years old -- and she would want me to understand not only the beauty of the object, but all the skill and effort of the artisan who made it."

    This fascination with esthetics, design and history came to Ms. MacRae early on. As Mr. MacRae noted, "Art and esthetics was a passion from her early years."

    In 1943, she entered what was then still known as the Ontario College of Art, which she joined as a member of faculty two years after graduation. In 1951, she entered a PhD program in the Fine Arts Department of the University of Illinois, bypassing the normal requirements for a Masters degree.

    Her studies were interrupted each summer by work for the St. Lawrence Seaway Commission, then collecting as much information as possible on the seven Loyalist villages that were to be submerged by the St. Lawrence Seaway. She was a consultant on the project, suggesting which buildings were especially important to preserve.

    Ms. MacRae received many other honours besides her Governor General's Award and her Order of Canada. She was a member of the American Society of Architectural Historians, of the National Trust (U.K.), the Ontario Historical Society and the Victorian Society of England.


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    Marion MacRae always stood out was a joy to study under and a pleasure to converse with.

  3. #3

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    I'll always think of Lily Maley, Marion MacRae and Mary Corelli as the Three Graces of OCA, with their passion for aesthetics and the idea that works of art and design speak directly to the viewer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Urban Shocker View Post
    I'll always think of Lily Maley, Marion MacRae and Mary Corelli as the Three Graces of OCA, with their passion for aesthetics and the idea that works of art and design speak directly to the viewer.
    Ah yes, Lily (isn't it mad?) Maley - such enthusiasm and insight into design.

    On the subject of "works of art and design speak directly to the viewer", I can't help but notice Petal that you're looking a little puffy - too many snags on the barbie?

  5. #5

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    Lookit, missy, if one more person makes snarky comments about my ( apparent ) weight gain ... I'll bitch-slap them.

    Where's that boy interchange? He put my picture there in the first place, so the least he can do is give me a little nip and tuck.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Urban Shocker View Post
    Lookit, missy, if one more person makes snarky comments about my ( apparent ) weight gain ... I'll bitch-slap them.

    Where's that boy interchange? He put my picture there in the first place, so the least he can do is give me a little nip and tuck.
    a LITTLE nip and tuck? Modesty has never really been an effective weapon in your social armory.

  7. #7

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    I just don't understand how your avatar remains as youthful and lovely as ever while mine suddenly makes me look like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and Ronald McDonald. It isn't fair, I'm not some sort of Dorian Gray creature ...

    Somebody! Help!

  8. #8

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    That better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ShonTron View Post
    That better?
    Oh thank heavens yes!!!

  10. #10

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    Interesting thing is that her co-author Anthony Adamson passed on his Rosedale abode to...Geddy Lee

  11. #11

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    Thanks Shon. I'm feeling much better now.

    I hope Geddy is taking good care of the place, especially the bits of the Cawthra house at King and Bay that Adamson salvaged before it was demolished.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Urban Shocker View Post
    It isn't fair, I'm not some sort of Dorian Gray creature ...
    At times I stop and consider if Urban Shocker is The Persona of Dorian Gray. If the forum went permanently offline, would we find a forlorn fellow aimlessly wandering the streets of Riverdale delivering impassioned speeches to himself about design vocabularies, trained eyes, and the spectacle of the opera?

  13. #13

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    Well you can blame it on celebrated OCA teachers such as Marion MacRae, Lily Maley and Mary Corelli if you do. Their visual literacy, historical knowledge, enthusiasm and teaching skills influenced legions in the local art and design community ... bless the old dears.

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