Who is Morton

Morton Burke is an artist that lives on an acreage along the foothills of western Alberta in Canada. He is a strong supporter of the arts, all arts……..but that hasn’t always been the case. 

Morton grew up in a family that has deep roots in the Bergen area. Both his mother’s family and his father’s moved to the Sundre area in the early 1900’s, pioneers of the area. His Mom’s family, (the Davidsons) settled in the Bergen area, where Morton lives now, and his grandpa Burke homesteaded about 4 miles north of Sundre in the Rockwood district. Grandpa Davidson opened the Sundre Meat Market in 1926 while Grandpa Burke, his wife and Morton’s Dad worked in the logging industry using swede saws to fall the trees, axes to delimb them and horses to skid the logs. When his Mom moved from Bergen to Sundre there were only two other families living there.  

Grandpa Burke was 7in 1960, when Morton was born, so Morton ended up being his little buddy, spending time fishing and hunting with Grandpa throughout his childhood. He was also active and successful in sports, he fought in the Canadian Boxing Championships in 1978, was a provincial champion in whitewater canoe and kayak and refereed hockey until he was 30 years old. He worked in the oil industry after leaving school in 1978, not the kind of guy that you would expect to become an avid artist.  

When Grandpa Burke passed away Morton inherited his wood lathe, he had watched Grandpa making bowls on it for hours as a boy. After he finished the bowl that Grandpa had started and left on the lathe he was hooked and has been turning wood for nearly 40 years now. At about the same time he and a friend brought home a good sized block of ice from an ice fishing trip, kind of a joke. He set the block up on a barrel in his front yard with some lights behind it for a Christmas decoration. The next year they harvested a larger piece and he decided to try carving it into something. This became a tradition and each year they got larger blocks eventually harvesting ice blocks that were too big to fit in a pickup truck and weighing about 5000lb his ice carvings became a popular local attraction at Christmas time.  

Meanwhile he was still turning wood and developed pretty good skill. When he moved to Okotoks in the late 80s he noticed wood turnings in an art show at the community gallery and mentioned to the manager he also did wood turning. She came to his house to look at his work and rather than include him in a group show she scheduled a solo exhibition of his work, “Morton Burke: Retrospective”.  That was a big surprise!  

He became active with the local art council and in ’92 he was invited to join a group called The Atti2ude Club. The club has about 150 members in 12 countries. Most are artists or arts administrators, many are at the top of their field in their home country. Membership has provided opportunities and encouragement beyond his expectations and allowed him to branch out from woodturning and ice carving to other forms of art, or at least to try them. Members interests/skills cover all forms of art including non traditional mediums, e.g. sand, ice, snow, paper mache, wood, metal, glass, light, movement…….. Many of the performing arts are represented in the club, they even have an opera singer, print makers and an internationally renowned luthier.  

Atti2ude Club, you might be a member, if…

  •  you love art. 
  • you know that everyone who does art gets something and contributes something from it. 
  • you don’t think there are hard and fast rules about art. 
  • you know that the first person to create a new art form probably had a lot of people that said it wasn’t art. 
  • you think non-traditional mediums are great for making art. 
  • you don’t know all the terms relating to art. 
  • you know all the terms relating to art. 
  • you know that you don’t have to have a studio to be an artist. 
  • you know that you don’t need a parchment to be an artist. 
  • you have a parchment. 
  • you don’t have a parchment. 
  • you have developed a technique that you share freely with others. 
  • you have developed a technique that you would rather not share with others. 
  • you respect that someone developed a technique but they would rather not share it. 
  • you understand that art can be a great benefit to your community.  
  • you volunteer to arts events just to be around other artists and enjoy their work even if yours may not be included. 
  • you aren’t an artist but you volunteer to arts events just to be around artists and enjoy their work. 
  • you don’t care for certain kinds of art but don’t say so. 
  • you can sit around a camp fire or kitchen table and talk about art all night. 
  • you’re game to try something/everything even though you know you might not be very good at it.  
  • you only do one kind of art but you do it with passion. 
  • you want to help spread the word and demonstrate that art can be a benefit to individuals, organizations and communities. 
  • you pass opportunities on to others because you want to see them succeed with their art. 
  • you know that creating art is very fulfilling and you’re happy for people who find that place. 
  • you don’t care if some people don’t think your work is art. 
  • you’re excited about collaborative art because you want to be involved in creating a piece that you don’t have all the skills to realize on your own. 
  • you see some Gawd awful art but you honestly like it because you know what fulfillment it gave the artist. 

If you have the right atti2ude, you ARE a member. 

In Okotoks he became quite involved in the community and served two terms as the President of the Chamber of Commerce which led him to become involved in pretty much every community event, serving as chairman of many; winter festival, sports days, Christmas celebrations and even co-chairman of the professional rodeo for two years. This gave him experience as an event organizer.  

After moving back to the Sundre area he was invited to participate in the Okotoks Sculpture Festival in 04 to create a piece from sandstone that would be placed in the community, his first piece of public art. The organizer of international artists for a symposium in Viet Nam, An Giang Impressions, saw his piece in Okotoks and invited him to represent Canada thereSixty-two sculptors participated in that event, it was the largest symposium ever held at that time.  In 2008 he was a member of the Canadian team in the  International Snow Sculpture Symposium at St-Jean Port Joli in Quebec, “Fete D’Hiver (Winter Party). With this little bit of experience more opportunities came along steadily, he has now created public art in several countries and has works placed in museums in two countries.  

He says if it wasn’t for the Atti2ude Club he’d never have discovered/developed the artistic skills he has now nor would he have had the opportunities that he’s  enjoyed so much.  Throughout this journey he has come to understand the social and economic development opportunities that art provides for communities, art is not only beneficial to artists.  

His experience in community leadership, membership in the Atti2ude Club and participation in international arts events provided him with the tools to develop the Bergen Rocks program 

View Morton's work

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