The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts opened this September and is now the happy home of the many Brock University arts students. However, on Oct. 1, the sad news arrived that the legendary Marilyn I. Walker passed away. Walker passed away at the age of 80. In order to pay tribute to Walker, We’re going to recount some of her greatest achievements in the arts community.
Marilyn I. Walker was primarily known for her work in textiles. She was a fibre artist and a premiere authority in the world of quilts and textiles in general. These skills led her through life as she gained prowess in the textile art community after which she became one of its most noteworthy members. She encouraged others to let their own passion for fibre arts thrive, much as she later would encourage other forms of art as well. She was the curator for the first Canadian Contemporary Quilt Competition and spent many years travelling between quilting guilds giving lectures and teaching the art form of which she was a master and a revolutionary. In 2003, Walker also published a book on the art of quilts called Ontario’s Heritage Quilts which celebrated the various quilts made by Ontario artists over the years.
Walker was also famous for her generosity as a philanthropist. In 2009, she donated 15 million dollars to Brock University for the development of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts which was fully realized this year. However, this was not her first act of philanthropy. She fully devoted herself to the development of the arts in the Niagara region which she was born and raised in. If not for her contributions of both time and money, the Niagara region would likely not have the same reputation for artistic prowess that it has today. She was an important advocate for the arts and played a key role in the rebirth of the Rodman Hall Centre as a show space for the visual arts.
The actions and accomplishments of Walker’s have not gone unnoticed either. Aside from the naming of Brock’s school of the arts after her, she has also received praise on the local, national and global stages. She won the Canadian Historical Association Award of Merit for her book and, in 2007, she was presented with the Mayor’s Patron of the Arts Award by the city of St. Catharines. This was followed in 2008 by her winning the International Women’s Day award, for which she was given the opportunity to speak to 400 hundred people about the importance of determination even in the face of adversity. In 2009, she was also the recipient of the Laura Sabia Award, an award which specifically recognizes a woman who has improved the interest of a community in the arts, which is exactly the work to which Marilyn Walker devoted her life.
Walker is widely considered to have been the most generous philanthropist in Canada and her passion and work will be greatly missed. She will be missed by the entire community in which she lent a personal hand to shaping it into what it is today.