We Are All One show opens

Residential school art exhibit provokes thought, reflection as it opens at Alberni Valley Museum.

Georgina Laing discusses her artwork with a patron during the opening of ‘We Are All One’ at the Alberni Valley Museum last week. Art has been a catharsis for Laing

Paintings hanging in galleries often elicit emotions in people—they love them, they hate them, they find them confusing—but the emotions filling the Alberni Valley Museum’s gallery were palpable last week, as the We Are All One exhibit opened.

Fifty years ago, children at the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) created paintings in an extra-curricular art class led by late artist Robert Aller. Now, a selection of these paintings have returned to the Alberni Valley in an exhibit honouring residential school survivors.

Many of the artists/ survivors were on hand for the opening.

“This has been an amazing journey,” says Dr. Andrea Walsh,  a visual anthropologist at the University of Victoria. Walsh is one of the people behind the exhibit, who has done an enormous amount of research to find the artists and gain permission to exhibit the work.

The artwork was unveiled in a ceremony at the Alberni Athletic Hall in March 2013, when the artists were reunited with their paintings. The artwork has also been included in some of the truth and reconciliation process for residential school survivors.

There are 75 pieces in the AIRS exhibit, 37 of which are included in the show, Walsh said. Some artists have not yet been found, so their work is not displayed; others have declined to put theirs on display.

Georgina (Cootes) Laing is one residential school survivor who allowed her work to be included: a picture of home in Kildonan, where she grew up with the Uchucklesaht First Nation. “I didn’t paint the houses (on the beach) because I knew what was going on in some of them,” she said.

Some of Laing’s paintings that she completed while in treatment on Quadra Island are hung beside the piece she did in Aller’s class; she included them to show the after-effect of attending residential school. She asks that they not be photographed as they are not part of the original intent of the exhibit.

“What I realized later is (residential school) impacted people. I feel it’s a really good thing to educate people on what happened so it never happens again. If they can feel it, they seem to be able to remember it.”

Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Jeff Cook, also part of the survivor’s group, has a piece in the exhibit, and although it is his signature on the piece—depicting a black crow on a gray background—he admits he doesn’t recall painting it.

“When I first saw my painting back in April 2012, it was a very emotional thing for me,” he said. “it was something from my past, something physical I’d never had a chance to hold onto when we left (the school).

“We left with what we had, our suitcase and our shoes. We never took our personal belongings because they generally threw them away.

“It’s a godsend Mr. Aller saved these paintings.”

We Are All One will be at the museum until March 7, 2015.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

Alberni residents petition for walkway

Process is needed for council requests: Sharie Minions

Crash on Highway 4 causes backup between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Traffic between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni has slowed to a crawl… Continue reading

Incoming storm prompts extreme wave advisory at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Flooded beaches, floating logs and hazardous surf conditions expected.

Someone from Port Alberni is a lottery winner

Someone who purchased a BC/49 ticket in Port Alberni is $75,000 richer… Continue reading

Port Alberni Black Sheep see signs of strength in rebuilding year

Head coach Jas Purewal encouraged by new players, deeper bench

VIDEO: ‘Lyle the singing pig’ searching for home

SPCA say the pig is ‘not opera-ready’

Man in custody linked police search near Salmon Arm

Police have not connected arrest to search at Salmon River Road property

Rogue masseur arrested for sexual assault in Victoria

John Heintzelman, 65, is accused of assaulting a person at his former business, James Bay Massage

Hey Amazon, the bid’s in the mail: Langford mayor

The City of Langford has officially submitted its bid to become the home of Amazon HQ2.

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Search for missing B.C. man a race against winter weather

David Jeff of Williams Lake was last seen in Kamloops during the chaotic wildfire evacuations

Man steals police car, goes for a ‘slow’ ride

Mission RCMP say the motive of the theft is unknown

Dodgers punch ticket to World Series

This will be the first time the Los Angles Dodgers have made it to the World Series since 1988.

Surf group winning the war on plastic bags

The Tofino Co-op will no longer provide plastic bags, following in the footsteps of the Ucluelet location that already made the change earlier this year.

Most Read