Visit the Centre!

We welcome you to visit the University of Lethbridge Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage. With over 18 perennial gardens, walking trails and repurposed historic outbuildings, there are more than a few reasons to come check out this piece of paradise on the prairies.

What’s To See

Gardens and Trails

  • Over 18 perennial and annual gardens, with meandering walking trails throughout the tall grass meadows and original shelterbelt. A walkabout can take anywhere from 30mins to 5 hours depending on how easily distracted you are! Multiple benches throughout the property where you can take a break and breathe in the fresh air.

Sunday Brunch

  • Sunday August 18, 2019 we are open to the public to come out and enjoy and all you can eat Sunday Brunch provided by Brown’s Catering. Live local music, delicious food and a beautiful garden setting in the middle of the open prairies.

Art Shack

  • A repurposed grain shed with a unique design. Fully stocked with art supplies, toys and activities for kids and adults, open during special events, and is available for bookings. Birthday Party bookings available.

Camera obscura

Camera obscura simply means ‘dark room’ in Latin, a term coined to describe devices devised to aid perception, but can include any darkened space into which light enters through a small opening (sometimes aided by a lens and a mirror). Present from early history onward, the camera obscura took on its name and became more developed in the Renaissance and had a revival during Victorian and Edwardian times with an expanding public interest in the science of light that included the development of the modern camera.

Artist Donald Lawrence from the University of Kamloops created a camera obscura using one of the metal grain bins on the Coutts homestead. The grain bin is dated around the 1920s and has been designed to rotate 360 degrees to view the property in live motion.

Historic Outbuildings

  • Jim began restoring/rebuilding the structures on the property in the 1980s, beginning with the original homestead house, chicken house and garage. Seven of the buildings on the property belonged to past owners over the decades and others have been added to perpetuate the motion of repurposing structures with historical significance.

Art sculptures/ Artisan Markets

  • Jim knew many local artisans that contributed garden art and sculptures which have been placed throughout the property. Some pieces are constructed of old farm implements found over the years. Take a stroll around and see if you can find them all.
  • Occasionally we will be hosting Artisan markets during special events. Check out our events page on our website for more details and dates.

Special Events / Booking the Venue

Sunday Brunches

  • 2019 Prices are: $18.00 Adult, $15.00 Senior $10.00 for 10 & under, $5.00 for 6 & under, 2 & under eat free.
  • Buffet style brunch provided by Brown’s Catering, cooked on site and served out of our commercial kitchen, which is a replication of a 1950s barn original to the property.
  • Enjoy your meal while listening to live local talent performing under the event tent, then go back for seconds because it’s All You Can Eat!!!
  • If you are a performer who is interested in using our venue or would like to play at one of our Sunday Brunches, contact our Entertainments Coordinator at 403-915-1334.


  • Covered Outdoor Venue
  • 7 acres to choose your perfect setting
  • Accommodate up to 160 guests
  • Caterer’s Kitchen on site
  • Ceremony area with stage and Elm Allee
  • Hillock ceremony area with mountain view
  • 30x60’ White tent with paving stone floor
  • Endless photo opportunities
  • Contact our Bookings Coordinator at or 403-915-6497

En Plein Air Open Houses

En Plein Air (en plein air - adverb)
“in the open air” (chiefly with reference to painting)
Ie: ‘a group of works executed en plein air during the artist's stay in Rome’ (See also plein-air)

En Plein Air days at the Coutts Centre have been hosted annually since the summer of 2014. One Sunday – usually the 3rd Sunday – of May, June, July and August – the Coutts Centre and the U of L Art Gallery host an open day of art-making with artist colleagues from all over Southern Alberta, British Columbia (and we’ve even had artists from Saskatchewan and Hawaii). The event is open to all artists and artistic practices. Some drawing supplies are available for anyone to borrow, but artists are generally expected to provide their own materials and tools.

In December of each year, an exhibition of works created at En Plein Air is staged at the Dr. Foster James Penny Building in downtown Lethbridge – open to the public. While the practice of En Plein Air artmaking has historically been associated with painting, the annual exhibition has always included works by photographers, quilters and sculptors as well.

Artist Residency

  • Original Homestead house built in 1904 and reclaimed in the 1980s. 2-bedroom 1-bathroom, main level access only. Full kitchen and laundry with 2 sitting areas. No TV. Full access to the grounds during stay, with a share-the-space policy during our peak season.
  • Artists of any discipline can apply for residency. More information is available upon request.

Any other form of gathering or celebration!

  • Birthday parties
  • Family Reunions
  • Anniversaries
  • Memorials
  • Garden Tours
  • Retreats
  • Meetings (indoor spaces available)

Booking with us

  • Most of the outbuildings are available for booking.
  • Indoor Accommodation 1-60 people, Chicken House, South Barn, Writers Cabin, Homestead House.
  • Outdoor Accommodation 1-160 people, Event Tent, or select outdoor areas.
  • Contact our Bookings Coordinator at or 403-915-6497.

Directions from Nanton, Alta:

  • Turn east off Hwy 2 on to Provincial Road 533. This intersection is across from the Ranchland Motel at the north end of the community.
  • Follow Provincial Road 533 east out of town, past the Nanton golf course, to Range Road 280.
  • Turn left (north) on Range road 280.
  • Travel north on Range Road 280 approximately 4 km (cross Township road 164).
  • Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage is located on the west side of Range Road 280. Look for a small house, a series of low outbuildings and a stone fence on the south side of the property.


May 1 - October 31
Mon - Sun: 8am - 6pm General Admission (Grounds & Buildings)
After Hours - Grounds Only

Policies and Procedures

Gardens are open from May 1 to Oct. 31 (weather permitting), access to buildings is limited to pre-arranged tours and special events. Staff is onsite Monday – Friday 8:00am-4:00pm.

Please call 403-915-6497 for inquiries or bookings.

No overnight access at this time. Special privilege will be given to Bride and Groom or U of L guests if requested.

No camping.

No fires.

Picnics - Open to the public. Please remove all garbage.

Public parking is in the West Meadow. Access to public parking is at the North and South ends of the property. Handicap parking is available in the front driveway near Jim’s House. Please do not park on main gravel road.

The designated smoking area is the bench area between the Stage and Grass Plots.

North Barn/Kitchen - Access by pre-booking only.

No Alcohol. Wedding parties, or large groups must apply for their own Licenses and Insurance.

Pets must be leashed and cleaned up after. We reserve the right to limit access during events.

Contact Us

Visit our website, for more information about the Coutts Centre and check out our
events page for what’s coming up next!

Check us out on Social media! Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Director of Operations

John Stoll

Bookings information

Entertainment information


About The Centre
About Jim Coutts
Garden Gallery
Building Gallery
About The Collection
Visit The Centre
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