Melissa Martin from the Rollin Art Centre holds two paintings from the Rollin Art Centre’s permanent collection: an original portrait painted by the late Robert Aller, and a mixed media piece called ‘House’ from Peggy Larson that was part of Aller’s private collection. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Melissa Martin from the Rollin Art Centre holds two paintings from the Rollin Art Centre’s permanent collection: an original portrait painted by the late Robert Aller, and a mixed media piece called ‘House’ from Peggy Larson that was part of Aller’s private collection. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Rollin Art Centre puts permanent collection on display

Works from Robert Aller, Arthur Lismer, Norval Morrisseau to be featured

The Rollin Art Centre in Port Alberni will kick off the 2021 exhibition season with a display about its own art.

Not many people realize the Rollin Art Centre has a permanent collection of artwork, including works from Canada’s famed Group of Seven artists.

“The collection is amazing,” says Melissa Martin, who oversees the Rollin Art Centre for the Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley.

The collection was bolstered in 1995 when the late Robert Aller donated 20 works of art, including four of his own paintings, to the Rollin. It remains the largest personal donation of Canadian paintings to the centre.

Aller was one of the founding members of the arts council along with the late George Clutesi, and they brought together arts organizations from around the region to one central council. Aller started collecting artwork when he was a student in 1946, and some of his pieces now in the Rollin collection include those from Clutesi and Arthur Lismer, one of the Group of Seven.

(The Group of Seven were Canadian landscape painters of note that first exhibited as a group in 1919. They are credited with creating a new painting style that broke from European tradition: featuring bright, bold colours and techniques.)

READ: Residential school childhood artwork repatriated by adult survivors

The late Aller’s work has been well documented of late: he saved artwork students created in his classes at the Alberni Indian Residential School, where he taught from 1959–1966. This artwork has been repatriated to the students, and exhibited at the Alberni Valley Museum among other places.

Visitors to the Rollin Art Centre can expect to see some of Aller’s own work, including portraits he painted of some of his students. The exhibit will also include pieces from his original collection, as well as others that have been gifted to the Rollin over the years. These include prints from the late E.J. Hughes and Norval Morrisseau—who some consider to be the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art.

The Rollin’s permanent collection has only seen the light of day a couple of times since the premiere showing in 1995, and that has been for art appraisals, Martin said. It is time for people to view and enjoy at least a small part of the collection, she added.

“It’s not only a legacy for Robert Aller, it’s a legacy for our community,” she said. “I’ve always said it’s important for not only our community and Canada but for the world to see what we have here. With Aller’s work with the First Nations…it puts another importance on art.

“Art is what is going to connect us.”

It is Martin’s dream to one day be able to display Aller’s work and those pieces contained in the permanent collection. “My goal was to build an extension on the Rollin Art Centre where we could display this permanently,” she said.

Initial plans for the extension have been pushed back as the City of Port Alberni is advocating for a licensed childcare facility to be built adjacent to the Rollin Art Centre, where a permanent exhibit space might have gone.

READ: Martin returns to art roots in Alberni

First things first, though: Martin would like to create a climate controlled storage facility so the collection can be preserved appropriately. She also wishes a benefactor of the arts would come forward and help pay to frame some of the pieces properly for display.

Some pieces aren’t gallery ready—they need framing, or their frames need updating or proper wiring for display. The Rollin has storage drawers filled with matted originals and prints just waiting to be framed. That costs money though, and for the past few years the arts council has focused on fundraising for the Rollin Art Centre and grounds, not its collection.

Martin hopes by bringing some of these important pieces of artwork into the public eye, that will change.

The Rollin Art Centre gallery is located at 3061 Eighth Avenue at Argyle Street and will reopen Feb. 2 following an extended Christmas closure. Regular hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with COVID-19 measures in place. Masks are mandatory. For more information, please call 250-724-3412 once the gallery re-opens.

RELATED: Alberni Museum gifted with Group of Seven artwork

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Arts and culturePORT ALBERNI

Just Posted

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(File photo)
Island conservation group says members targeted with harassment, vandalism

Police investigate pair of reports of mischief victims call pushback against conservation efforts

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Nanaimo sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Whispers Adult Superstore overnight Feb. 21

Sooke Lake Reservoir, shown here, is the primary storage site for Greater Victoria’s drinking water supply. The Capital Regional District just purchased a property on the north edge of the water supply area to help further protect the supply. (Photo courtesy CRD)
CRD acquires 58.7-hectare watershed to further protect Greater Victoria drinking water supply

Forested area near Grant Lake is part of the Cowichan Valley Regional District

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read