Holland College home to Fred Ross mural

Brian McInnis
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Holland College student Ernesto Carranza stands in front of a mural by New Brunswick artist Fred Ross at the school.

Holland College is just realizing that it has an entire wall covered in a mural painted by Fred Ross, an important Saint John, N.B., artist who died Aug. 19.

Ross, who died at 87, was a major figure in Canadian art specializing in portraits and murals.

The Holland College mural, located in Montgomery Hall, is 13.5 metres long and 2.5 metres high and was painted in the spring and summer of 1961, says Catherine Hennessey, a Charlottetown author and historian.

She said Ross would have been 34 years old when he did the work on a visit to the college.

In 1961, what is now Holland College was then Prince of Wales College and Montgomery Hall was a dormitory and dining hall. The mural occupies the entire wall of what was a large common room facing Kent Street.

Hennessey said Dr. Frank MacKinnon was the principal of PWC and it was not uncommon to have artists visit the school since the art scene in Charlottetown was starting to develop.

MacKinnon also led the movement to create Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Ross was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2004, when he was praised for his contribution to the “rich social realist tradition of Saint John artists with his vision of Atlantic Canada and its people.”

His work has also been displayed in the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Officials at Holland College said they are aware of the mural and have taken pains to preserve it, but not everyone was aware it was a mural by Ross.

“It’s just recently come to our attention that Mr. Ross has passed away and so we are not ready to make a comment on any future plans for the mural. We’ll need more time before we can make a definitive statement,” said a statement issued by the college.

Organizations: Holland College, Prince of Wales College, Confederation Centre National Gallery

Geographic location: Saint John, Charlottetown, Atlantic Canada Kent Street Ottawa

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