Arts Council celebrates 50 years of culture

The Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley has supported art in all its forms for 50 years.

Mayor Mike Ruttan

The Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley has supported art in all its forms for 50 years. On Thursday, Dec. 10 the general public will have the opportunity to help celebrate this milestone.

“It all started with the Rollin Art Centre and then the Community Arts Council came to reside there,” said arts administrator Melissa Martin.

Fred and Ellen Rollin owned and lived in the house that came to be Rollin Art Centre from 1914 to the mid-1970s. They were well-known for their gardens and connections made with students and teachers at Eighth Avenue School, right next door.

When Fred died in 1976, he left his home and grounds to the City of Port Alberni and School District 70. From there, the Community Arts Council gained possession of the home and put a lot of volunteer hours into renovations and landscaping.

The promotion and support of the arts started to flourish, but was always based on fundraising and grants. There have been a number of initiatives developed over the years and when Martin came aboard as administrator a few years ago, her goal was to encourage art and culture among all ages.

Martin’s drive to continue promoting the arts stems from her own background. Originally trained in art therapy, she worked with children with various developmental and learning challenges. She said she has seen art in all of its forms help with communication skills, self-esteem, self-worth and higher learning.

“Art is beneficial on so many levels,” she said. “I would like to see it promoted in schools more. There is a place for it along with the maths and sciences.”

Martin’s father is an accomplished painter and one of the founding members of Art in the Park at Stanley Park. She recently found out that three of his pieces are a part of the University of Victoria’s archive collection.

“My son goes to UVic and texted me and asked if I knew they were there,” she said. “He was Googling my dad and my name came up from an article in the Alberni Valley News when I first started (at Rollin Art Centre). I said my goals then were to excite children about the arts and get it into the schools. That has been my most successful and meaningful goal.”

Martin has also established family and community events like the annual pumpkin carving contest, Celebration of Lights, pool mural project and the new Solstice Arts Festival.

A celebration of 50 years of arts in the Valley will be hosted by the Community Arts Council on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Rollin Art Centre. Everyone interested is invited to join in for cake and refreshments and to browse through scrapbooks from years past. Martin encourages others to dig through photo albums and bring stories and photos of their own to share.

Arts council members will also receive 20 per cent off gift shop items through Friday, Dec. 11. And anyone wishing to join the Arts Council may inquire about their membership drive.