Western Minnesota seems to churn out more talent than it can keep track of, case in point, Arthur Norby. A native son of Montevideo, Norby has seen the world, produced thousands of pieces of art in multiple mediums and has returned to share a few of his favorite things with the people of Granite Falls.
For over forty-two years Norby has successfully navigated the art scene of multiple regions by following his own advice, “Don’t have a plan B, commit to it, be all in”. Noting there are sacrifices that come with this career commitment, “You’ll give up some luxuries; you may lose things…and then start again”. Arthur stands tall as an artist who knows his business, having owned eight art galleries himself, one of which happened to be right here in Granite Falls. “Back in 91’ the city of Granite Falls gave me a loan and a grant to renovate all of this”, Arthur said proudly with arms extended as we sat in the Granite Grinder Coffee House, the site of the former Norby gallery space from 1991 to 1995. Other Minnesota galleries where held in Afton, Willmar, Spicer, New London and Stillwater as well as Seattle WA, Scottsdale and Cave Creek AZ, rounding out the list.
Norby, also a Navy Veteran, is best known as the creator of the Minnesota Korean War Veterans Memorial at the State Capital in St. Paul and has a sculpture titled “Hands of Peace” in the International Peace Garden on the border of North Dakota and Canada. He has created more than 600 sculptures which are in civic, corporate and private collections throughout the North America and Europe.
Norby and his family lived in and out of Minnesota over the years, with two children remaining still in the state. When asked of Norby why he seems to gravitate back to this region “I wanted to come back to Montevideo all my life, I loved growing up there but I could never find the Montevideo I grew up in…I discovered in 1990 that Granite Falls held those same qualities I loved.” Arthur also spends time in New London where is daughter is Vice President of a local bank.
The Minnesota River Valley seems to call to Arthur, so much that it is site of his next book. That’s right, Norby is also a well regarded writer with his last book “The Deadly Winter” published in 2014. His next novel is in the works and is also set in rural Minnesota, this time in the river valley. An area book signing is being considered for scheduling. Oil painting, sculpting, scrimshaw. writing, silver and gold fabrication are just a few of Arthurs artful skill sets along with art advocacy. It has been estimated that he represented and assisted the careers of more than one hundred-fifty aspiring and mid-career artists as of 2014.
At the age of eighty one may think Arthur is retired and relaxing from the art game but that seems far from the case. Currently he produces about twenty oil paintings per year, accepts sculpture commissions and teaches painting and sculpture workshops for many experience levels.
In fact if you talk to Norby, “that’s how this whole thing started”. The artist was returning to the area for the summer and was looking to contribute, “I’m seeing my family and I wanted to teach, maybe set up a workshop so I got a hold of Mary Gillespie who knows Granite. She put me in touch with the Arts Council”. Out of this connection an exhibit emerged and maybe more.
Artist Arthur Norby will be presenting a collection of his paintings and sculptures at the K.K. Berge building in Granite Falls July 2nd through August 15th. The exhibit titled “A Few Of My Favorite Things” will showcase approximately twenty-five oil paintings and sculptures from his more than forty-two year career in the arts. There will be an opening reception at the gallery July 5th at 5 p.m.
But Norby wants to do more, “Granite Falls is perfectly positioned to be a tourist destination if they develop their assets…tourism, arts, recreation”. The artist, writer, teacher and former gallery owner, over the summer has started to envision setting up a space in town as a second home/work location, “I could imagine having a presence in Granite Falls”. Arthur is looking for ways to get involved. He recognizes this emergent time for the town and the pivotal decisions coming, eagerly watching.
Arthur has been engaged in aspects of tourism for over 40 years and can focus even the most disinterested viewer into a captive appreciator. When asked what do you say to the nonbeliever of the impact of the arts, Arthur replied “Look at that belt buckle, your shoes, the things you enjoy, pick out, love and eat, they were all created by artists.”
Arthur Norby may well become recognized as one of Minnesota’s most esteemed and versatile artists in the states history. He sees possibility in the economic impact of the arts and the value and promise of Granite Falls. He is an Artist, a Maker, a Creator, a Rebuilder, and a potential new Neighbor. He is already having us over to see his cool stuff. Come visit Arthur Norby at the artist reception, July 5th at 5 p.m. in the K.K. Berge Gallery.