Mission Statement

Nickle Galleries is a creative hub at the heart of the University of Calgary campus. It strives to be a leader and active participant in the cultural life of Calgary and Western Canada.

Founded in 1979 with a generous donation by Mr. Samuel C. Nickle and a matching grant from The Province of Alberta, The Nickle Arts Museum was envisioned as a university arts museum that would "contribute to the education and the overall benefit of both students and community at large." What began as a small art collection held in the basement of the Library Block, has grown to a permanent collection of just under 30,000 artifacts, organized across three collections: art, numismatics, and textiles.

In 2012 the newly re-named Nickle Galleries opened on the main floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL). With a dramatic architectural space unlike any other in Western Canada, the Nickle continues to champion art and culture and Calgary's arts community. Producing 8-10 temporary exhibitions annually, these include projects originated by Nickle curators, invited guest curators and travelling exhibitions. The Nickle hosts the annual BFA Honors and MFA Graduating Student exhibitions (on behalf of the Department of Art and Art History). Exhibitions draw on and expand the Nickle's permanent collections.

The Nickle supports students and faculty from across the University of Calgary and beyond. Nickle staff members regularly work with classes and researchers and mentor practicum students and interns. As faculty members, Nickle curators conduct research, teach and frequently work with graduate students.

Since 1979 the Nickle has featured over 739 exhibitions, published over 500 exhibition catalogues, and welcomed close to 1M visitors.

Founders and Patrons

Samuel Clarence Nickle (1889 – 1971)

Samuel Clarence Nickle was born in 1889 in Philadelphia. The family soon moved to Winnipeg. Shortly after Sam and Olga Simonson, a concert violinist, were married, Sam saw First World War service in the United States Coast Guard. Rejoining the family in Calgary, he entered the shoe business with his father, operating The Nickle Boot Shops. Later Sam established his own store, the Slipper Shop on 8th Avenue. In the 1920’s, he first caught the “oil bug”, investing in oil exploration in the Turner Valley and Athabasca areas. A few years later, Sam Nickle decided to devote his career to oil exploration. Using his Turner Valley leases as collateral, he formed Northend Petroleums. In 1944 he founded Anglo American Oils and ventured into oil exploration in other provinces. Past the age at which most men retire, he continued building and finally merged his businesses into Canadian Gridoil Limited. As he reached his 80th birthday, he decided to donate one million dollars to the university’s special building fund for the construction of an arts museum. This amount was matched by the Alberta government. At the University of Calgary’s Spring Convocation in 1971, Samuel Clarence Nickle was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his community service. Shortly afterward he died at the age of 81. The Nickle Arts Museum was the first building at the University of Calgary to be constructed as the result of a private donation.

Carl Olof Nickle (1914 – 1990)

Carl Olof Nickle was born in Winnipeg in 1914, and came to Calgary with his parents, Sam and Olga Nickle as boy. The family was far from wealthy. In 1937, with sixty-five dollars in capital, Carl launched a newsletter, Nickle’s Daily Oil Bulletin. In 1948 Carl began a second publication, Oil in Canada. Carl was elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative member in a 1951 by-election, and was re-elected in 1953, retiring in 1957. He formed his own oil and gas company, Conventures, and served on the boards of directors of many companies in Canada and the U.S. Carl’s first love was numismatics and he created a major collection of ancient coins. In 1970 he donated the main part of the collection to The Nickle Arts Museum. In 1955 he established The Nickle Foundation, and in 1971, merged that foundation with one his Father, Sam, had founded to create The Nickle Family Foundation. In 1979, Carl Nickle – like his father before him – was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Calgary, in recognition of his great contributions to the Calgary and University communities. Dr. Carl Olof Nickle died in December 1990.

Nickle Galleries Overview


  • Alberta Museums Association