Victoria-born artist known for his ‘modern’ public sculptures

 An acclaimed Victoria-born artist whose works are familiar to many died this week at Mount Edwards Court care home. He was 84.

George Norris is best known for his sculpture of the metal “crab” fountain outside the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, but his work can be seen in several B.C. communities.

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Another of his sculptures is in the atrium of the Greater Victoria Public Library’s main branch, a piece Norris called simply the Dynamic Mobile Steel Sculpture.

Tracy Cromwell, director of development and marketing at the Space Centre, commonly known as the planetarium, said the crab sculpture is an attraction. “If we had a quarter for every person that stopped to take a picture of that fountain, we would never have a funding difficulty again,” Cromwell said.

Like many of Norris’s works, the crab is unnamed. It was commissioned by the Vancouver Centennial Commission to celebrate Canada’s centennial in 1967 and cost $20,000.

Artist Gordon Miller of Vancouver mourned the passing of his friend. “He was probably the most unrecognized and unappreciated talent in B.C.,” Miller said. “He was an incredible artist that never tooted his own horn.

“The stuff is everywhere, “ said Miller of Norris’s work. “It’s all beautiful. It’s all different.”

Norris moved to Vancouver with his family when he was six. He attended the Vancouver School of Art, where he also later taught, and went on to study at Syracuse University in New York and the Slade School of Art in London.

Norris toiled as a carpenter’s helper, miner, survey-crew member, mill worker and logger, as well as teaching at the University of B.C., the Banff School of Fine Art and the Emily Carr College of Art.

“He always brought a modern sensibility to everything he did,” Miller said.

Norris also created the geometrically patterned pre-cast concrete panels on the exterior of the University of Victoria’s McPherson Library.

Norris and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Shawnigan Lake in 1983, and to Victoria about five years ago.

Examples of his work can be found in Esquimalt, Nanaimo, Merritt, Golden, Williams Lake, Penticton, Kimberley, Trail, North Vancouver and Calgary.

He is survived by his wife, daughter Anna, sons Alexander and Samuel and five grandchildren. A funeral will be held at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday at 2 p.m.

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