Feature Story

The Visual Arts Legacy of Mount Allison

New space at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery dedicated to the rich history of Fine Arts at Mount Allison
By: Melissa Lombard

In July 2022, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, NB opened a permanent gallery space dedicated to Fine Arts at Mount Allison, including some of Canada’s most renowned artists.

The Mount Allison gallery was created under the leadership of John Leroux, manager of collections and exhibitions at the Beaverbrook. He says the idea was born out of his work and discussions with his friend and longtime Fine Arts professor and visual artist Thaddeus Holownia.  

“Not only does it make sense for us as the provincial gallery of New Brunswick to share this narrative and these stunning artworks that trace their roots to Sackville, it gave us an opportunity to expand the scope of exhibited art by so many beloved Canadian artists who are always in demand to be seen by the public,” says Leroux.

Photo credit: John Leroux

The collection of artists includes:

  • Alex Colville (‘42, LLD ‘68)
  • Mary Pratt (‘57, LLD ‘92)
  • Christopher Pratt (‘57, LLD ‘72)
  • Tom Forrestall (‘58, LLD ‘87)
  • Herménégilde Chiasson (‘72, LLD ‘04)
  • Dawn MacNutt (‘57, LLD ‘14)

And former professors:

  • Stanley Royle
  • John Hammond (LLD 1930)
  • Thaddeus Holownia
  • Christian McKiel (1911)
  • Lawren P. Harris (LLD ‘78)
  • ...among others

While the room is now a permanent gallery space dedicated to graduates and faculty of Mount Allison from the late 19th century to the present, the space will continue to evolve over time.

“The room is intended to be dynamic as the artists and artwork will change periodically. While it is based on works in our permanent collection, there is the potential for borrowed artworks to be shown as well,” says Leroux.

In November 2022 the University held an event in the gallery to officially celebrate the opening of the space, welcoming more than 75 guests, including Holownia, Chiasson, Forrestall, MacNutt, and Emma Hassencahl-Perley (‘17), who addressed the crowd along with Chiasson.  

(L-R): Director and Curator of the Owens Art Gallery Emily Falvey ('97), Tom Forrestall ('58), Barb Cross ('60), Dawn McNutt ('57), Anne Pratt ('80), Thaddeus Holownia, Herménégilde Chiasson ('72), and Emma Hassencahl-Perley ('17)

“It was very cool to see the work produced across the decades standing or hanging beside one another in this great gallery space and meeting with young artists whose work illustrates that Mount Allison continues to provide a fertile environment that nurtures new and diverse ideas,” says MacNutt. “It was also a trip down memory lane to be with the artists who are old friends, like Tom Forrestall, the family of Christopher and Mary Pratt, and all those new and in between.”

Holownia’s work ‘Of a Feather: An Homage to Gay Hansen’ is part of the gallery.

“It is always an honour to be included anywhere and an even more special honour in my home territory and in an important gallery like the Beaverbrook,” says Holownia. “This body of work is in my late partner Gay’s memory also, so I feel pretty blessed to have this happen.”

The Mount Allison Fine Arts tradition continues to be strengthened under the recently established Pierre Lassonde School of Fine Arts, which has provided an expansion of programming with additional scholarships, internships, and funding for an artist-in-residence.

“Mount Allison is so fortunate to have the incredible affirmation from such important Canadians as Purdy Crawford and Pierre Lassonde associated with Fine Arts at Mount Allison,” says Holownia. “With the number of five-star pluses going on with the program right now — I can’t imagine anyone, who didn’t mind being in a small community, would go anywhere else to study fine arts.”