An image of Mary Grace Linton
Mary Grace Linton at Heritage Park | Photo courtesy of Mary Grace Linton

Mary Grace Linton

Maker builds creativity brick by (Lego) brick

Maureen McNamee

Colourful paintings decorate the walls of Mary Grace Linton’s home, crafting supplies fill the floor-to-ceiling shelves in her cheerful front room, and Lego creations line the ledge beside the stairs leading to her basement studio. At the bottom of those stairs, more Lego creations cover every available space of a large room, and assorted plastic bins of carefully sorted Lego pieces of all shapes and colours are stacked on three large shelving units.

Mary Grace discovered her creativity when she attended the Alberta High School of Fine Arts in Okotoks and took fine art, band and drama. She says playing the flute and singing was healing, and drawing allowed her to express herself in ways she hadn’t been able to before. “To be able to incorporate art into my school work saved me,” she says. “If it wasn’t for the arts, I don’t know if I would have graduated.”

Since then, art has found its way into everything she does — from sparking young imaginations at the play-based preschool where she works, to family time spent scrapbooking and making paper crafts with her two stepchildren, to hosting Makers Mingle events and markets as a volunteer on the board of her community association.

Playing with Lego

Along the way, she rediscovered her love of Lego. Mary Grace says her brother had Lego when they were kids and they often played with it, but when her brother moved out, his collection went with him. Fast forward a few years and her now husband bought her stepson a Lego train. The next thing she knew, they were building a community to surround it.

Mary Grace was working as a graphic designer at the time and says her dual-income family had money to spend on Lego — she bought sets for the pieces and scoured sites like Kijiji to add to her collection. When she left her job to be a homemaker she had less money to spend, but more time to create. “That’s when I really honed by skills and got more involved in the club my brother started,” she says.

Lego builds and artwork
Lego builds and artwork by Mary Grace Linton

That club, the Southern Alberta Lego Users Group (SALUG), is for adults who share an interest in Lego. Mary Grace’s specialty is buildings, which she designs without the aid of a computer. She has created impressive replicas of the historic Stanley Jones school and grocery store in her Renfrew neighbourhood, as well as one of its typical one-and-a-half storey homes — resembling the ones she lives in — that were built for war veterans in the 1940s. She’s currently working on a design for Renfrew’s historic Rutledge Hangar, where the city’s first airport was located.

She enjoys showing off what she can build — especially as a woman in a hobby dominated by men. She auditioned for Season 3 of Lego Masters and although she didn’t make the cut, she’s excited that a team from Calgary — both firefighters and both named Stephen — will be competing in the show when it premieres later this month. She will also be part of a Brick Roundup event hosted by SALUG at the Renfrew Community Hall on October 15 and 16, 2022.

Mary Grace says making art and playing with Lego bring her joy and satisfaction, and has allowed her to find her true self. Through her community-building events and her work with children, she is inspiring others to embrace their creative side as well — in whatever form it takes.

About The Storytelling Project

On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives.

That need has turned into The Storytelling Project.

The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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