Art lover and patron, Sheila Hugh Mackay devoted her energies to the promotion and encouragement of art and fine craft in New Brunswick during her lifetime and in her will generously endowed the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation to continue her work in perpetuity.
The daughter of Hugh (Yip) Mackay and Geraldine Jane Caruthers Mackay, Sheila lived in Rothesay and then Toronto. She attended Rothesay Netherwood School and then McGill University. She worked in advertising, marketing and Financial Management in Toronto and London, England. In the early 1980s a serious illness brought Sheila from Toronto back to New Brunswick. Ms Mackay served as a director of ARTSatlantic magazine, the Canadian Crafts Council, the New Brunswick Crafts Council and the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada.Crediting Mary Crimmins and Rosamond Campbell with sparking her interest in arts while she was a student at Rothesay Netherwood School, Sheila Mackay continued to perfect her techniques and design work in fiber. She took classes at Sheridan College and the Ontario College of Art. She made yearly pilgrimages to Carmel, California studying with such artists as Yvonne Porcella, Judi Warren, Jean Ray Laury, Gail Perry and Françoise Barnes.
Her work encompassed quilting, embroidery and fiber sculpture. Life time friend and first administrative director of the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation, Anne Fawcett noted that needlework was a passion. “Fortunately, market demands do not intrude on her creativity and so she has never lost a childlike sense of whimsy.”
- Couplings and Other Delights, Sunbury Arts and Nature Centre St. Andrews, NB solo (quilts) 1995
- Sheila’s Bugherd, Aiken Bicentennial Exhibition Centre, solo (quilts) 1991
- Slugger and the Saint John River, New Brunswick Crafts Council’s St John River Celebrations exhibition
- Dilettante’s Delight, Art Studio Insight, Aruba 2002
- Diletante’s Delight, Saint John Arts Centre, 2003
From 1987 until her death in 2004, Sheila dedicated her energy and resources to the betterment of the Arts community in New Brunswick. In 1987, Sheila established a charitable foundation to “promote knowledge, participation in and appreciation of Canadian arts and crafts and their importance in the cultural heritage of Canada.”
In 1996, she was awarded the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts Silver Medal for her efforts in Atlantic Canada. In the words of her nominator, Joe Sherman, editor of ARTSAtlantic, “Sheila Mackay has established a foundation to advance the public interest in the arts and also to advance the careers of many individuals and organizations. Her support is generous, clearly defined and well expressed recognizing excellence and the individual contributions of artists in their respective fields.”
In 2004 Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation was awarded the New Brunswick Arts Foundation’s first Philanthropy Award. She was recognised both for her assistance to hundreds of NB artists and craftspeople through grants and awards and for significantly raising the profile of art and fine craft in the province. In the same year, the Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.le.s du Nouveau-Brunswick (AAAPNB) recognised Ms Mackay’s philanthopy by awarding her the prestigious Prix Éloizes – Soutien aux arts.
Ms Mackay died in Aruba in 2004, bequeathing a generous endowment to the Foundation she created to support the arts that were central to her life.