The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery in downtown Sarnia will be closed to the public from Monday through Aug. 31 to prepare for a visiting exhibition from the Canadian War Museum.

Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War is scheduled to be displayed at the county-owned art gallery from Sept. 1 through Jan. 7, along with a version of the Lambton Heritage Museum’s Lambton At War exhibition featured in 2015 at the county museum in Lambton Shores.

A public opening at the downtown gallery is set for First Friday, Sept. 1, 6 p.m.

“Staff are excited about the arrival of this exhibition,” gallery curator Lisa Daniels said in a news release.

“Over the coming weeks, the gallery will be a hive of activity as it undergoes a complete transformation.”

The gallery is closing to the public to allow staff to pack up the current exhibitions, build and paint walls, receive and install art, orient volunteers and fine-tune public programming, including curriculum-based school programs, the county said.

All of the gallery’s exhibition space will be used by the exhibition travelling from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, as well as the Lambton At War material.

The travelling exhibition features works from artists A. Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, David Milne, Mable May and others, and was displayed at the Ottawa museum in 2014 before it went on the road.

Recently, it has been to Arras, France, the location of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, as well as the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.

The exhibition includes both official war art and intimate sketches made in trenches and prisoner-of-war camps by ordinary soldiers.

Pieces from the war museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art are included, making a connection with the travelling Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery exhibition that attracted more than 21,000 visitors to the Sarnia gallery in late 2015 and early 2016.

Lambton At War was created by staff at the Lambton Heritage Museum after they put out a call for county residents to share memories and artifacts about the community’s wartime experiences.

The exhibition covered the period from Fenian Raids in the later half of the 1800s, through to modern times, including Lambton’s contribution to the First World War.

That includes the 149th “Lambton’s Own” Battalion, which recruited soldiers from the county and shipped out for England in March 1917.

Once there, the battalion was dispersed and its soldiers sent to other reserve battalions replenishing depleted units at the front.

The museum’s collection includes the colours of the 149th Battalion.

Before the art gallery closes its doors to the public for the month, it is hosting its regular Family Sunday Drop-In art studio activity, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the theme See You Later, Alligator.

Families will be able to create and decorate an “artsy alligator,” to remind them to return to the gallery when it reopens in September, the gallery said in a notice about Sundays event.

Children at the drop-in event must be accompanied by an adult. It’s free but the gallery suggests a $5 donation per family.

-Observer Staff

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