The former home of renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville has been opened up to the public.

The modest white house, located on the campus of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., is now an interpretative centre known as Colville House.

It is not a museum or a recreation of how Colville and his family used to live, said Gemey Kelly, curator and director of the university's Owens Art Gallery.

'For him it's about the future, young people, research, outreach, access, not about "Oh, this is where, you know, the family had their breakfast." '— Gemey Kelly, curator, Owens Art Gallery

Colville was clear about his vision for the house, where he lived from 1948 to 1973, raising four children with his wife, Kelly said.

"For him it's about the future, young people, research, outreach, access, not about 'Oh, this is where, you know, the family had their breakfast.' His reaction was, I think this is a direct quote, 'I'd like there to be an intellectual activity for the house.'"

So the home, used most recently as a student residence, will now be used as a place to learn about Colville's work and ideas.

Key works

Reproductions of some of his works hang in the house. Many of them, such as Rhoda on Stairs, were done using the house as a backdrop.

They all have a connection to the area, a sense of place that was so important in his work, Kelly said.

"You walk through this house and you do very strongly think to yourself, you know, this young family lived here. You know Colville was in relative isolation.

"Imagine being an artist trying to make it in Sackville, teaching, going down the road to teach his classes. He had students like Christopher and Mary Pratt. So all of those things do kind of give you the spine tingle when you're here. I think that's a big part of it."

Many of Colville's most important works, including Horse and Train and Nude and Dummy, as well as two major murals on the Mount Allison campus, were created during the 25 years Colville lived in the house.

There is something magical about being in the place where Colville lived for all of those years, outreach and education curator Lucy MacDonald said.

"It's quite wonderful to see the house used in this way," she said. MacDonald hopes it will inspire others.

Colville House will be used for special and school projects during the winter. It will be open to the public in July and August.

About Colville

Colville, who has exhibited extensively across Canada and internationally, was born in Toronto in 1920. He moved to Amherst, N.S., with his family in 1929.

He attended Mount Allison University and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in 1942.

Colville first came to prominence as an artist during the Second World War when, at the age of 24, he was chosen to serve as a member of the elite Canadian War Art Program.

He took a position at Mount Allison University when he returned from Europe in 1946. He taught art there until 1963, when he devoted himself full time to painting.

In 1973, he moved to Wolfville, N.S.