John Oravec and Marisa Bernardi speaking in front of an entire room filled with over 50 small pieces the night the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery dedicates an entire space to them. ( JEREMIAH RODRIGUEZ / THE OBSERVER )

Last night, the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG) was in full form as it dedicated one of its largest spaces to two longtime donors to the gallery.

The ‘Share the Passion: First of Art’ is a 4-part series that has been paying homage to all the donors of art to JNAAG’s permanent collection with Thursday specifically honouring John Oravec and Marisa Bernardi with a gallery named after them.

“Each and every piece they’ve donated has been designated by Canadian Heritage as important pieces of our Canadian cultural heritage,” the gallery’s curator Lisa Daniels said.

“That’s significant to what these works mean to the history of visual art in Canada,” she said. Over the past 10 years, Oravec and Bernardi have donated next to 30 pieces in total. They’ve helped spearhead collecting of the more contemporary works including The Bold and the New exhibition.

“I feel like I’m walking into my living room,” Oravec said as he walked into the gallery. “We just donate because we love art and we like to help the gallery out.”

Besides surprise, Bernardi said it was very much an honour and she hoped that people loved it as much as they do.

The gallery highlighted the last two exhibitions which included The Bold and The New, which is up now, and the Heavy Hitters: The Group Of 7 and Contemporaries which will be fully unveiled for patrons on Friday, July 7 and both will run until August 6.

Daniels said that The Heavy Hitters collect “some of the major historical works that are like community favourites that started the collection back from the 1920s.”

And if you like the grooviness style of the 1960s, patrons can wander through The Bold and the New exhibit which is based more from that period onward.

Daniels described it as very contemporary and conceptual but there are some modern pieces on display as well including a number of pieces that were donated by local artists born and raised right here in Sarnia.

“A number of those works have not been out on exhibit before and about three-quarters of those works have been donated by John and Marissa,” Daniels said.

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