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

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

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read