Through his long career as an art instructor, as well as with his own watercolours, Murray MacDonald made a significant contribution to the arts in Alberta.
Born in Cape Breton, MacDonald moved west in 1927 to teach in the Edmonton Public School system. He instructed in technical high school art. Four years later, he became Principal of the University of Alberta demonstration school. In 1949, he was appointed Supervisor of Art for Edmonton schools. He studied Painting and Design at the University of Washington. After retirement from the School Board, Murray taught at the University of Alberta and the Banff School of Fine Arts with A.Y. Jackson (Group of Seven). In addition, MacDonald taught art and lectured at the Edmonton Museum of Art (now the Art Gallery of Alberta), wrote art reviews for the Edmonton Journal, and organized painting classes in rural areas of the province.
He was a Life Member of the Alberta Society of Artists, a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Color, the International Society for Education Through Art and the Edmonton Art Club, for which he helped write the constitution. In the 1970's he was presented with the Performing and Creative Arts Award, Visual Arts, from the City of Edmonton for his "outstanding contributions to the cultural life of Edmonton." MacDonald's singular role in art education was recognized by the University of Alberta with an honorary doctorate in 1978 and an Alberta government Achievement Award in 1979.
In his own artwork, MacDonald specialized in watercolours. In the Alberta Society of Artists Winter Open show 1963, his painting, "Muskeg in the Moonlight", was described as "a solid composition full of sombre lyricism inspired by the nocturnal poetry of the prairies."
MacDonald’s paintings were exhibited in several Canadian and American cities and are included in such public collections as the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Massey Collection, Ottawa.
Patricia Ainslie and Mary-Beth Laviolette. Alberta Art and Artists. Calgary: Fifth House, 2007, 41.
Murray MacDonald & Janis Blakey, Watercolour Painting: A Dialogue – Murray MacDonald, Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta, 1982.
A portion of the sales of some of these works go to support programming at the Strathcona Place Senior Centre, Edmonton.