Canadian sculptor Eleanor Milne's art on display — in a storage unit

Thanks to a chance encounter Ottawans will get to see work by Eleanor Milne, the first woman to serve as Canada's national stone carver, at a 'pop-up' storage unit art show this weekend.

Chance encounter led to Milne's work being included in 'pop-up' show

Sculptor Eleanor Milne at work on Parliament Hill. Selections from her art will be on display this weekend inside Just Right Self Storage at 255 City Centre Ave. (Ken Desson)

Before she died in 2014 at the age of 89, Eleanor Milne was known as Canada's first female Dominion Sculptor of Canada, responsible for carving the country's history into the walls on Parliament Hill.

But she also created more personal pieces — and thanks to a serendipitous encounter, some of those works will be on display this weekend at a "pop-up" Ottawa art show held in, of all places, a series of unused storage lockers.

"This isn't something very many people have had a chance to see," said Myka Burke of artspace613, the organizer of this weekend's show at Just Right Self Storage on City Centre Avenue.

"And it's so interesting to see what motivated her personally to be the prolific artist that she was."

First woman to be Canada's national stone carver

Born in 1925 in Saint John, N.B., Milne showed an interest in sculpting from an early age, studying at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the former Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, England.

She was appointed as Canada's fifth national stone carver in 1962, becoming the first woman to hold the position.

Over the next 31 years, Milne would complete a number of works on Parliament Hill, including carvings on the ceiling of the House of Commons and 12 stained-glass windows depicting the country's 10 provinces and — at the time — two territories.

"Canada Remembers," a carving by sculptor Eleanor Milne that can be seen at the House of Commons in Ottawa. (House of Commons Heritage Collection)

As for how Milne came to be part of this weekend's show: organizers were setting up the space when they ran into a man bringing a piece of art into one of the storage units, Burke told Giacomo Panico, host of CBC Ottawa's In Town And Out.

"Someone here mentioned to him, 'Oh, are you part of the art show?'" Burke said.

"And he said, 'No. Art show? Excuse me?' And so he contacted me, and it turns out his aunt is Eleanor Milne."

'Glass fur coat'

Not all of the artists taking part in the two-day exhibition have Milne's national reputation, of course.

Charlynne Lafontaine, the founder of Loretta Studios and Gallery in Ottawa, will be constructing a "glass fur coat" over the course of the two-day show.

"Each piece of 'fur' is handworked through a method called flameworking. So I use a torch and melt the glass," Lafontaine said.

"I just felt it was a really great idea," said Lafontaine, explaining why she wanted to show her art in a storage unit. "It's just a different place to be exhibiting work."

The show runs from 11 a.m until 4 p.m. today at 255 City Centre Ave. and from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday.

With files from Giacomo Panico