Vending machine art and the ERCB

Bart-Habermiller-Art-Containing-ERCB-Phone-Directory (1024x683)

This past Thursday evening I attended the opening of Bill Rodgers ten-year retrospective at the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary.

While there, I met up with Bart Habermiller.  We eventually got talking about the upcoming 1990s show at the Glenbow Museum that will be curated by Nancy Tousley and will be opening later this week.

I mentioned the 1990s show a couple days ago in conjunction with Shelley Ouellet and the Entomology installation that Shelley has just finished reinstalling at the Glenbow.  This of course got me thinking about collaboration again.

The reason?  Graceland.

Short History of Graceland

Graceland was an interesting project that lasted for about a ten-year period.  It began when Bart was still attending the Alberta College of Art back in 1986 and continued until Grace’s Land (hence the name Graceland) was sold to a developer in 1997.  It was located off Barlow Trail near Peigan Trail which is close to the Road King Truck Stop.  Grace Colton inherited what later became Graceland when her partner passed away.  It was a former private junkyard located in what is now the light-industrial and warehouse district located south of the residential community of Dover.

One of the benefits of Graceland being isolated from much of the city and having few neighbours, is that it was able to operate as a studio/performance space/production space/art venue/sculpture garden and more and had the space to do it all.  It was significant for its annual Art Rodeos held each summer beginning in 1989.  These were held each summer and the Art Rodeos would last well into the night.

Graceland was a highly collaborative environment with lots of material in the area to work with.  Some of the artifacts from Graceland probably are still in existence as before the property closed they held “the yard sale to end all yard sales.”

The Vending Machine

During the summer of 1994 Bart Habermiller installed a vending machine at one of the Glenbow shows.  I suspect it was The End of Modernity show although it is quite possible it was included in the New Alberta Art monthly shows that the Glenbow used to do.  Either way, the vending machine dispensed for the princely sum of $2.00 – a single piece of art – the financial part was a fact that Bart confirmed this past Thursday.  I must have had pocket change when I went to see the show because I purchased a few pieces of art from the vending machine which I still have.

This vending machine (or a similar one) will be re-installed at the Glenbow 1990s show that opens later this week.  It will be installed on the main floor which only serves to further democratize the acquisition of art as no admission is required to buy the art.  Further, the proceeds will go to the Elephant Artist Relief fund.

The Elephant Artist Relief Society is a great organization which was established by artists for artists.  The recent flood only helped to draw awareness that sometimes people need help.  So if you have extra money for a good cause I am sure that EAR would be a worthy recipient.

One of the pieces I purchased in the vending machine is illustrated above.

About the Art

At the time I was still working as a consultant in the oil and gas or financial industries.  Seeing this piece of artwork attracted me, as I recognized the significance of the P. & N. G. Conversation Board.  This very intriguing historical document containing names and 5-digit phone numbers was an integral part of the artwork.

The significance of the P. & N. G. Conversation Board was that it later became what was known for a long time as the Energy and Resource Conservation Board (ERCB).  It is now known as the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) which is a provincial regulatory agency for the petroleum and energy industries.  It is my best guess that this typed document must have dated from the mid to late 1950s.

I knew who Dr. Govier is.  He was very significant to the industry and was significant to the time of modern resource extraction in Alberta.  The others I did not know.

The people

Today, I decided to do some research on who those other people are.  Sadly they are only identified as Mr. or Dr. without any given name or initial attached.  Fortunately the AER recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and there is a book written by one of my former department head’s colleagues and close friends – Gordon Jaremko.  It mentions a few of the names from the pre-internet era.  No doubt many of them have passed away so some information is rather difficult to get on the internet.


Mr. McKinnon is Ian N. McKinnon.  He was accountant with a history in government.  He is significant as he was the Chairman of the ERCB between 1949 through 1962.  He was also significant as he served as the first Chairman of the National Energy Board (NEB) on secondment from the ERCB between 1959 to his resignation in 1962 when he assumed the role on a permanent basis.  After his death a Memorial Fellowship was created for students connected to the Schulich School of Engineering program at the University of Calgary studying at the Masters or Ph.D. level in Economics, Engineering or Geology disciplines. (Note 1)  Jaremko stated this about McKinnon:

  • The like-minded Diefenbaker government reacted by enacting its National Oil Policy (NOP) and creating the National Energy Board (NEB). The NOP propped up sales and prices by banning imports from Canada west of Ottawa and reserving the domestic market for Alberta production. The NEB took responsibility for pipelines that cross provincial or international bound­aries. Federal policy followed the Alberta regulatory model, even borrowing ERCB chairman Ian McKinnon to be the NEB’s first chair. (Note 2)

Mr. Goodall is D.P. (Red) Goodall.  He was the Deputy Chairman of the ERCB and served as the Acting Chair of the P&NGCB between 1947 and 1948 when McKinnon was named as the Chair.  There is little information readily available on him although the ERCB has a number of documents and photographs from him in their archives.  However, Dr. Govier described McKinnon in discussion with Jack Peach during August 1981:

  • It wasn’t until considerably later Jack, that, well, following first of all, Ian McKinnon’s resignation from the Alberta board and acceptance of the chairmanship of the National Energy Board. Then Red Goodall was appointed chairman of the Alberta board. Red’s health didn’t stand up very well and he asked to be relieved and then I was asked to take on the chairmanship. I did this for a short while, still commuting from Edmonton. But then in the spring of 1963 I made the decision and left the University of Alberta, with many regrets of course, because I enjoyed my work there too. And by that time I was dean of the faculty of engineering and that was a very challenging position. But I made the decision and moved to Calgary full time. (Note 3)

Dr. Govier is George Wheeler Govier.  He is still living from the sounds of it, although he is close to 100 years of age.  He was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence last year, which to my mind took them long enough.  There is quite an extensive biography found there.  Here is a small synopsis:

  • George Govier is a well recognized member of the engineering and energy sectors who helped build those key Alberta industries through his longstanding service as a university professor, researcher and respected leader in regulatory development. (Note 4)

Mr. Patrick might be Russ Patrick.  On this I am uncertain.  There is mention of a Russ Patrick in the Jaremko book in conjunction with the ERCB.  If it is the same person, he is described as this:

  • Patrick, whose cabinet portfolios included 16 years with the ERCB (ending along with the Social Credit regime in 1971), described oil sands development as a political hot potato from the get go. (Note 5)
  • A. Russell Patrick was first elected to the Alberta Legislature on August 5, 1952. In the early summer of 1955, in the midst of Alberta’s Jubilee Celebration, he became a Provincial Cabinet Minister with the Social Credit Government. He remained a Cabinet Minister for 16 years until 1971. During his years as Cabinet Minister, A. Russell Patrick was the Minister of Economic Affairs from 1955 to 1959; was appointed Minister of Industry and Tourism in 1959; was Provincial Secretary from 1959 to 1962; was appointed Minister of Mines and Minerals in 1962 and served as Chairman of the Research Council. (Note 6)

There was uncertainty in the Jack Peach oral history transcription about how to spell Mr Baugh’s name. However he is mentioned often by Govier as Ted and his role is described as this:

  • In the late 40’s Ted Baw (sic) and I worked together to develop a technical basis for the regulation of oil production from the point of view of engineering considerations. This was not market pro-rating but it was regulation to ensure that there were not excessive rates of withdrawal that would lead to underground waste. Ted and I were jointly responsible for developing what was called the MPR system. Those letters stand for maximum permissible rate. It was an elementary system to form some reasonably rational basis for regulating oil production. Again, I repeat, unrelated to market demand but related only to technical considerations. Then of course, subsequently, in 1950 it was, the board was called upon to institute a system of prorating oil to market demand. The legislation gave the board the authority to do that but the board did not act on its own until industry came to the board and said, we’re having problems with the voluntary kind of pro-rating production to market demand. You the board, have the statutory authority to do this, would you go ahead and do it. So after consultation with industry we devised a system, this was the first system of pro-ration of oil to market demand in Alberta. That was instituted, I happen to remember that one date, that was December 1950.  (Note 7)

As for Mr. Crockford, I drew a blank and could find no information.


Because this blog is about art, I found this fascinating quote that Govier gave where he talks about the role of business and engineering:

  • Govier taught the ERCB — and leaders in business, the professions, and government — to think big. . . In a 1964 address to the Canadian Natural Gas Processing Association, Govier described the writing on the wall. In his presentation, titled “Avoiding Technical Obsolescence,” he said, “The engineer cannot afford the ivory tower luxury of the scientist who is searching only for scientific truths and facts. The engineer must understand economics, business, government, and government boards. An understanding of history, philosophy, human relations, and social trends is important to him. Music, art, and the theatre must also aid him in the difficult task of understanding man. And he must understand man if he is to use his knowledge and technical skills for the benefit of man.” (Note 8)

It is always interesting to know the back story about a work of art.  This research I conducted today makes me appreciate this work a little bit better.

I am sure something about this piece will show up in the new vending machine at the Glenbow during the 1990s show.  Watch for it.


  1. Ian N. McKinnon Memorial Fellowship – Canadian Scholarships, accessed February 1, 2014
  2. Jaremko, Gordon, Steward : 75 years of Alberta energy regulation, (Edmonton, AB; Energy Resources Conservation Board, 2013), 42
  3. Peach, Jack, and George Govier, Petroleum History Oral History Project Transcript, (unpublished document, deposited with Glenbow Museum archives, August 1981), 4, accessed February 1, 2014,
  4. “George W. Govier OC ScD PEng FCIM LLD (hon) ScD (hon) D.Eng (hon),” Alberta Order of Excellence, accessed February 1, 2014
  5. Jaremko, Gordon, ibid, 47
  6. “A. Russell Patrick fonds,” Provincial Archives of Alberta, accessed February 1, 2014,
  7. Peach, Jack, and George Govier, ibid, 2.
  8. Jaremko, Gordon, ibid, 17