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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ravi Jain, Why Not Theatre’s founding artistic director, will present a Zoom lecture as part of the University of Victoria’s Orion fine art series on March 8. (Photo: University of Victoria).
Award-winning directors highlight coming University of Victoria lecture series

The March 8 and 18 Zoom events are part of the Orion fine arts lecture series

A shot from the rehearsal of Being Here: The Refugee Project, the Belfry Theatre’s filmed play that’s set to open on March 16. (Photo: Belfry Theatre)
Victoria’s Belfry Theatre shows filmed play on refugee, sponsor experience

Being Here: The Refugee Project is based off the first-hand accounts of refugees and their sponsors

(Black Press Media file photo)
Get the word on art on Sunday afternoons in Victoria

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria presents Sunday lecture series in March

GVPA authors
Write On! Greater Victoria Public Library releases 2021 local authors collection

Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) is celebrating local authors with the unveiling… Continue reading

Hermann's Jazz Club
Hermann’s celebrates International Women’s Day and St. Paddy’s Day

International Women’s Day will be celebrated at Hermann’s Jazz Club with an… Continue reading

Gabriel Swift, 23, is one of three Victoria filmmakers chosen to receive $20,000 Telus Storyhive grants to produce Local Heroes documentaries. (Courtesy of Gabriel Swift)
Three Victoria filmmakers producing ‘local heroes’ documentaries with $20,000 grants

Telus Storyhive providing $20,000 to 40 Western Canada productions

The shadow cast of the Satyr Players production of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’: Linda Dohmeier as Dr. Scott, Olivia Erickson as Columbia, Brandon Caul as Rocky, Christopher Carter as Brad, Charlie Prince as Eddie, Branden Martell as Riff Raff, Jenna Morgan as Magenta, Megan Rhode as Janet and Adrien Kennedy as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (clockwise from left). (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
VIU student actors go online for 25th-annual ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Satyr Players theatre company to broadcast pre-recorded shadow production

Donna Hales next to one of her paintings of Sooke. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Donna Hales still displaying her work at age 94

Current exhibit at the McMillan Arts Centre through April 1

Nanaimo painter Shawnda Wilson hangs her exhibit Tropical Wallpaper at Jonny the Barber. The show runs until the end of March. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter battles pandemic blues with tropical exhibition

Shawnda Wilson presents ‘Tropical Wallpaper’ at Old City Quarter barbershop

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Artist Sandra Meigs will be the next speaker in NIC’s online 2021 Artist Talk series, appearing virtually on Friday, March 5 at 1 pm. For the full schedule and link to attend the Artist Talk Online Series, visit (Photo: The Glass Ticker (2017) — 15’ X 9’ X 5’, wood, enamel, lights, aluminum, glass, automata. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.)
Celebrated artist and mentor Meigs joins North Island College Artist Talk series

Vivid, immersive, and enigmatic style combines the complex with comic elements

Arts Laureate Barbara Adams joins artist Luke Ramsey and Mayor Kevin Murdoch in front of the Parade of Play mural at the Oak Bay High track. (Black Press Media file photo)
Curtain draws to a close on Oak Bay arts laureate’s term

Barbara Adams has been a champion for arts in the community

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Island high school’s musical theatre program hoping for last-minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of Timberline shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to stage, sold $750 in tickets

Most Read