Derek Besant

About the Artist

Derek Michael Besant was born in Fort McLeod, Alberta, in 1950. Growing up with parents who worked in the oil patch, he moved around a lot, and lived in Ottawa, Ontario, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Manitoba and various cities in Alberta.

“I attended 13 different schools before university,” Besant writes. “I can always remember painting a fence in a new yard that backed onto the wild prairie, a woodland, or mountainous valley. I tend to be good at research, so education was a positive experience for me, even with all the moving between provinces.” (Besant, correspondence with the author, March 13, 2008)

After high school Besant was headed for studies in Geophysics at university, but followed his “inner instincts” and studied Fine Arts instead. He graduated from the University of Calgary in Alberta with a Bachelor of Fine Arts honours degree in 1973, followed by graduate studies there. He then served as Exhibition Designer for the new construction and relocation of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.


“My first exhibition  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  was for an exhibition of Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard, who loved that I sat his people and cow sculptures on doilies and antique farm furniture from the Glenbow collection, rather than the regular white gallery plinths,” Besant recalls. “Those first years I got to work on exhibitions for fantastic Saskatchewan artists including Otto Rogers, Dorothy Knowles, Ernest Lindner…” (Besant, correspondence with the author, March 13, 2008)

Besant later took a teaching position at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he has been a member of the Fine Arts faculty for 30 years. He also lectures at Texas State University and at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. In 1999 he was the first visual artist to win the University of Calgary Distinguished Alumni Award.

Derek Besant says the experience of moving around the country as a young person allowed him to see and appreciate the differences and similarities within Canada’s culture. “If anything,” he adds, “it has given me absolute respect for our idiosyncratic distinctions as a mosaic. I might not be a  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. ( Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (  painter, but the distances, long nights, cold air and wind across the field are all things that influence how I think, and how I react.” (Besant, correspondence with the author, March 13, 2008)

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning