Other Names: Diana Carolyn Coates (née Ruddy)
The Society for Learning in Retirement, Heritage London Foundation, and the City of London Heritage Conservation District Steering Committee Study for St. George-Grosvenor. In the 1980s, she interviewed and published six oral histories of women artists living in London, Ontario.
Diana Carolyn Coates (née Ruddy, 1939) spent her youth in the agrarian Quaker village of Pickering, Ontario, population 740. Now the town is home to over 99,000 people living approximately 43 kilometres from the metropolis of Toronto. The urbanization of Pickering as it changed from a picturesque locale to a sleeper community governed by traffic and commuters had a profound effect and Coates has remained intrigued by the concepts of transformation, not only in geographic terms, but as expressed by the revolution in ideas and physical artistic expression.
Coates graduated from McMaster University in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1982, as a mature student, she pursued graduate studies at Western University where she earned her Master’s degree in Library Science (MLS). Her prime interests were the studies of oral history and art history documentation.
From 1985 to 1988, Diana Coates interviewed and published six oral histories of women artists living in London, Ontario: Silvia Clarke (1911-1994), Kerry Ferris (1949-2016), Sigrid Lochner (1925-1994), Jamelie Hassan (1948-), Sasha McInnes (1947-2021), and Thelma Rosner (1941-). These oral histories describe transitions in the lives of the interviewees as they tell stories of growing to maturity and working in the last part of the twentieth century. All six of the women interviewed either moved from other countries to Canada or travelled to remote parts within our country. These transitions, together with their views of Canada, are magnified through their personal lenses of visual artistic expression. It was exciting for Coates to hear the artists describe their pathways to the present and their experiences living and working in London, Ontario. The interviews are now in the archival collections of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario and The Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC) at Western University.
Coates began her career in 1960 as a case worker for the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. In 1962 Coates’ husband Dr. Charles Coates, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, was employed by the British Colonial Office as a medical officer for Kabale and West Nile, East Africa. From 1962 to 1964 she lived in Kabale and Arua, Uganda. The first of her three children was born in 1963 at Mengo Hospital, Kampala. In the same year she served as consultant for the WHO, the World Health Organization, working with probation officers from the Ankole Kigezi Mbarara office.
Diana Coates has lived in London, Ontario since 1972. She was a docent for ten years at the London Public Library and Art Museum. Over the years she took several art history courses through the Department of Visual Arts, Western University, under Dr. William Dale and Professor Barrio-Garay. Of particular significance was the studio course offered by Patterson Ewen and Duncan de Kergommeaux. Upon receiving her MLS, Coates worked as librarian for the London Regional Art Gallery (now Museum London) from 1982 to 1984.
Coates acted as Diocesan Archivist from 1990 to 2004 for the Verschoyle Phillip Cronyn Memorial Archives at Huron University College. During this period (1987 to 2005) she was also Managing Director for Trillium Plus Music & Letters, a 20th century New Music chamber concert series underwritten by the Ontario Arts Council. Composer Dr. Jack Behrens, former Dean of Music at Western University, was Artistic Director. The series supported young, aspiring musicians.
The programs had an interdisciplinary focus, with nationally known contemporary composers, artists, and writers presenting new works.
Diana Coates initiated The Society for Learning in Retirement Art @ Large Activity program. She is currently co-moderator with Pat Patterson. The programme, now in its 11th year, is dedicated to exploring the creative process of regional artists through field trips to artists’ studios, museums, and private art collections. From 2012 to 2022, Art @ Large members met with 24 artists in their studios and homes, and also viewed several private art collections. In 2021-2022 Pat Patterson moderated ZOOM video meetings for artists and 20 program members, meeting the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. (See CV for more information)
Diana Coates has served on the Boards of the London Regional Art Gallery, The Society for Learning in Retirement, Heritage London Foundation, the City of London Heritage Conservation District Steering Committee Study for St. George-Grosvenor, and the McMaster University Steering Committee for Year ‘60 Graduates. Coates continues to write oral histories in progress.
Biography Courtesy of Diana C. Coates
CV (Art @ Large Chronological History) Courtesy of Diana C. Coates
Biography Profile Photo Courtesy of Diana C. Coates and Leslie Coates SkinnerRead More