All welcome at late artist Ted Harrison’s ‘thank-you’ memorial

Artist Ted Harrison would have loved his own wake-style celebration on Saturday: friends, fans and Guinness.

Louise Major, who managed Harrison’s gallery and studio on Oak Bay Avenue for three years before it closed in 2009, said the artist loved to talk over a pint.

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“He really enjoyed sitting down and talking with people and, if it was over a Guinness, well, that was just great.”

A celebration of Harrison’s life will be held at the University Club at the University of Victoria from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Guinness has been specially brought in. The public is welcome.

Harrison died Jan. 16 at the age of 88 in Victoria, leaving a legacy of vivid, folk-ish, whimsical art based on the landscapes and life of the Yukon and B.C. coast.

He was born in northern England, the son of a coal miner father and a mother who recognized Harrison’s talent and sent him to art school. He served in the Second World War, then taught art in Malaysia and New Zealand before spotting an ad seeking teachers in Canada.

He and his wife, Robina, and son, Charles, landed in the Cree community of Wabasca in northern Alberta in 1967. Shortly afterwards, they moved to the Yukon, where they lived for 25 years.

In 1993, his wife was suffering poor health and they moved to Victoria. She died in 2000.

In Victoria, Harrison was a regular at the Moss Street Paint-In, a frequent visitor to schools, a lecturer and a patron at the Penny Farthing pub in Oak Bay Village.

Robert (Lucky) Budd, who wrote the introduction to a new book called Ted Harrison Collected, said he once remarked to the artist that his work was about community and children.

“He said, ‘It’s about children, dogs and community,’ ” said Budd.

Kaitlyn Patience, registrar of Harrison’s collection, said Saturday’s celebration of his life was a requirement of the artist’s will. It’s not just a celebration, but a mark of Harrison’s gratitude.

“Ted really wanted to offer thanks for all his family, friends and fans,” said Patience. “So it’s ‘Thanks’ for all their support over the years.”

She said anyone who wishes to honour Harrison’s memory is asked to make a donation to the Ted Harrison Foundation to support art education for children. Details can be found at

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