New Brunswick

Alex Colville's studio to be on display in Sackville

Fans of the late artist Alex Colville will be able to see inside his private workspace starting next year, as Mount Allison University is recreating his studio in his old home in Sackville.

Colville House to offer tours of late artist's workspace, thanks to family donation

Colville House to offer tours of late artist's workspace, thanks to family donation. 1:08

Tourists will be able to walk through the late Alex Colville's studio at Colville House in Sackville starting in July 2017.

The celebrated painter's family donated the contents of his studio, untouched since his death in 2013, to Mount Allison University, where he studied and taught for decades.

How it started

Gemey Kelly, the director and curator of Mount Allison University's Owens Art Gallery, explained the project started when she was contacted by Alex Colville's daughter.

"Ann Kitz phoned me and said that the studio was still intact and the family did not want to disassemble [it]," said Kelly. "And given the strong connections with Alex Colville and Mount Allison, the family had decided to donate it to the university."

Alex Colville's daughter, Ann Kitz, in front of the restored mural called Athletes, in the Colville Gallery in Owens Art Gallery. (Owens Art Gallery)
Kitz said it seemed wrong to disassemble the studio.

"Individually [the objects] are sort of relatively meaningless, but all together, they give you a really good glimpse at his kind of working process, so it seemed important to kind of keep it all together," said Kitz.

Colville, who grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, graduated with his bachelor of fine arts from Mount Allison in 1942.

He returned to Sackville as a professor, after a brief period spent documenting World War II as a war artist.

He lived in Sackville, where he raised his children, until 1973 when he moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

The objects have been sent from Colville's former home in Wolfville to the university, in order for Kelly and her staff to recreate the studio at the painter's former home in Sackville.

Glimpse into Colville's methods

"People will be able to enter the house, we'll have a number of displays for people to see. They'll be able to go in and enter into the space of the artist's studio," Kelly explained.

She said people will be able to learn more about the artist by seeing his workspace.

Kelly and her staff were surprised by how modest some of the materials were, given the fact that Colville was particular about some objects in his life, such as his car and his home.

Alex Colville, in his Sackville home in 1961. (Owens Art Gallery)
"He built his own easels, he built his own work tables. One of his worktables is the back of an old peg board that he repurposed," she said.

He kept his studio contemporary.

"I actually don't think that there would be that much difference between the way Colville worked and the way a young artist would work now," said Kelly. "And he had in his studio little quotes and things that he put up for inspiration, young people do that also."

The permanent exhibit will open on July 1, 2017.

Colville House in Sackville, where the painter lived while teaching at Mount Allison University, will be where the studio is recreated, and open for tours in July 2017. (Owens Art Gallery)
It's being funded with a $98,700 grant through the Canada 150 fund, which supports "high impact, large scale projects that are national in scope," according to the government's website.

The grant will also fund the development of a website, and educational and community outreach programs related to Colville's life and work.

There is also a new permanent Colville exhibition installed in the Owens Art Gallery, which features a newly restored mural.