Kamloops has lost an artist who trained his lenses on life in and around the city.
Donovan Harrison was a musician, composer, arts administrator and, later in life, a photographer who worked on a variety of artistic and civic projects in Kamloops. He died of cancer on Oct. 17.
He had been unwell for a couple of years and succumbed to an aggressive tumour diagnosed within the last few weeks, said his wife, Gisela.
“He just turned 80 in July,” she said on Wednesday. “We were going to go out to the West Coast. He always wanted to see the autumn storms.”
As an artist who was drawn to digital photography, Harrison had a passion for nature and the cycle of life. Exactly 10 years ago, he presented Coming Home: Homage to the Sockeye, a collaborative show with Gisela, a retired art teacher and artist in her own right, at the Kamloops Arts Council gallery.
There were many other projects that had the soft-spoken photographer behind them, though people may not have been aware of his contributions.
In 2009, he launched the website picturekamloops.com, an online exhibition depicting, through thousands of images, the many facets of life in Kamloops. Gisela intends to maintain the site.
The salmon show, based on the Adams River sockeye, was later presented at Kamloops Art Gallery and at the Strait of Georgia Cannery Gallery in 2005. In 2008, he produced Junk and the Art of Seeing, finding fascination amid detritus. One of his most popular projects came a year later. His 2141: Keeping the Spirit Alive filled the Kamloops Museum rotunda as a tribute to the volunteers behind the heritage railway.
Donovan’s parents were teachers on the Prairies in the 1930s. The family moved west to the northern mining town of Stewart during the Great Depression, later relocating to Vancouver. It was in Stewart that he became a musician by learning to play the pump organ at dances. He went on to play piano and synthesizer.
“Donovan always composed; music was always his love,” Gisela said.
They met in Kamloops in 1971 after she arrived to teach at Valleyview secondary. Donovan returned to university to become an arts administrator. He ran Kamloops Music School and the Okanagan School of Arts in the 1980s. He founded Kelowna’s summer school of music as well as its jazz festival, which continues.
He supported all of Gisela’s endeavours, working behind the scenes when she lead the arts council and later became president of the B.C. Arts Council. The BCAC had fallen on hard times, so he did the paperwork voluntarily.
His photography included freelance projects for the City, the KSO and Western Canada Theatre.
“He was the kind of guy who put his heart and soul into a project.”
Along with his wife, he leaves to mourn his passing two brothers, Laurence and Gordon Harrison, daughters Larisa Harrison (Jason Finnis) and Christina Mohr, and grandchildren Jesse and Jakob Mohr, and Claire and Caitlin Finnis.
A memorial gathering at the museum is planned, though a date has not been set.