After a blockbuster response to a display of Lord Beaverbrook’s art collection, Sarnia’s Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery is set to host another high-profile national exhibit. (The Observer, Barbara Simpson)

Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War – featuring the work of Group of Seven artists A. Y. Jackson and Frederick Varley – will be on display at the downtown Sarnia art gallery from Sept. 1, 2017 to Jan. 7, 2018.

The travelling exhibit, curated by Ottawa’s Canadian War Museum, will also feature never-before-seen paintings from commissioned wartime artists and artist-soldiers.

“This is one of the most high-profile exhibits we’ve brought in since Beaverbrook,” said Andrew Meyer, corporate cultural officer with the County of Lambton.

More than 21,000 people visited Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the first exhibit of a national scope held at the county’s new downtown gallery.

That exhibit – which ran from October 2015 to February 2016 – featured the art collection of Lord Beaverbrook, a Canadian expat millionaire that hired artists, photographers and cinematographers to document the First World War.

“What’s interesting is that Lord Beaverbrook started the [museum’s] War Art Collection and a lot of the working coming as part of the exhibit is from Lord Beaverbrook, so there’s a nice tie-in,” said Lisa Daniels, curator and director of the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG).

County staff unveiled plans on Wednesday for the Witness exhibit, as well as other gallery programming that will complement it.

The Lambton Heritage Museum will be contributing a reformatted version of Lambton At War, an exhibit about the wartime contributions of Lambton County families. It’ll be on display at the JNAAG during the same time as the Witness exhibit.

The installation of both exhibits will result in the closure of the JNAAG from Aug. 9 to Sept. 1, a committee of county council heard Wednesday.

“I was surprised to see you’re closing down in August,” Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper told Daniels. “It’s the busiest time of year for the tourist season in Sarnia.”

But Daniels said more tourist traffic in the area doesn’t necessarily translate into greater attendance for most galleries because visitors want to be outdoors.

“August is surprisingly not a busy month for art galleries,” she said.

County officials, however, are hoping to build up the marketing of local cultural institutions, like the JNAAG, in partnership with Tourism Sarnia-Lambton.

“With marketing and public relations, we have more work to do,” Meyer said. “Our department is the biggest tourism asset – we’ve got museums, art galleries.”

But bringing in national exhibits, like Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War, isn’t just about appealing to tourists, Daniels noted.

Gallery staff have timed the exhibit in part to coincidence with the school year. The hope is to generate more class visits to the gallery because the exhibit comes with curriculum-based school programs for teachers.

“We’re actually hosting a teacher’s event later this month to talk curriculum,” she said.

Sarnia city/county Coun. Anne Marie Gillis said Wednesday the fact that the JNAAG is getting the exhibit – after it’s travelled to France, no less – is “amazing.”

“I think this is a major coup for us because 2017 was the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge and we get (the exhibit) this year.”

Original Article:–norman-alix-art-gallery