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Art Donor Hopes to Inspire West Hills College Students

Art Donor Hopes to Inspire West Hills College Students

When George Ollikkala was a young man, his Finnish immigrant parents traveled California from El Centro to Redding in search of work.

Born in 1922, he attended 11 different elementary schools before the family was able to settle in Grass Valley where he attended high school and the nearby Sierra Junior College.

A trip to the 1939 World Exposition held at Treasure Island to commemorate the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge opened the eyes of the young man to the world of art and artifacts and set him on a lifelong journey that has taken him through the galleries of Europe and the ancient civilizations of Mexico and Egypt.

During those years, he acquired an impressive collection of art and artifacts that he has generously shared with Fresno County residents and visitors through contributions to libraries and art museums throughout the area.

A generation of students at West Hills College Coalinga, and more recently those at West Hills College Lemoore, has enjoyed reproductions of classic sculptures on loan from Mr. Ollikkala. In 2009, he formally donated them in a gift to the West Hills Community College Foundation.

In a 2009 essay on his uncle's life, Paul Mork said that Mr. Ollikkala believed that art should be displayed for the public to enjoy, so rather than collect art for his own appreciation, he loaned it for public display.

"George is hopeful that his gift to the colleges will encourage art appreciation to the young college students, and perhaps inspire and motivate a student artist to find his artistic gift and medium to continue with their creativity," Mock said.

In addition to his gifts to WHCCD, the retired librarian, who passed away on Feb. 4, 2011, also has a permanent display of his collection at the main branch of the Fresno County Library, Arte Americas and the Fresno Art Museum.