Just outside the north entrance of the Better Living Centre, a tall 25-foot metal sculpture with agricultural images stands in the center of the entrance square. This sculpture Man Above Matter, originally stood in front of the entrance to the Coliseum , but was moved to its present location prior to the construction of the National Trade Centre in 1997 (now the Enercare Centre). The sculpture was a commission done by artist Arthur Price in 1964.
Man Above Matter consists of 300 separate mold pieces which were made for casting by Price. He produced them in his studio, and then moved them to the foundry where the bronze casting was poured. Sixteen realistic objects appear in the sculpture to illustrate the events held in the Coliseum. The shape of the work is basically three poles in a triangular arrangement with banners attached to each of them. On the banners are the realistic objects representing the activities held within the Coliseum. At the top of the sculpture, on a spar joining two of the poles is a human figure with arms stretched upwards.
Reference: Canadian Coppermetals, Spring, 1964 and Foundry, June, 1964
Born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1918, Arthur Donald Price attended Western Technical School where he received a bursary to study at the Ontario College of Art and Design in the evenings, under various teachers including Franklin Carmichael and Frederick S. Haines. Naturally creative, he worked as a free-lance commercial artist, and later went on to study dance with Boris Volkoff, build sets and appear in productions. Price also studied pattern-making and industrial design. In 1943 he went to the National Film Board of Canada as a set designer and part-time animator. It was while working at the NFB that he met and married Dalila Barbeau, daughter of noted ethnologist and folklorist Dr. Marius Barbeau.
During his travels Price became acquainted with the art of the North West Coast Indians. He visited Indian villages, taking notes and photographs and making drawings of Indian art. Price arranged the purchase and removal of totem poles, house posts, a community house and other pieces which established the Indian village at the University of British Columbia in 1947.
Later, Price opened a studio near Ottawa where he was able to continue wood-carving. In 1950 he began metal work in wrought iron, copper and subsequently, sterling silver. With his considerable experience in set designing he was appointed Technical Director for the 1952 Canadian National Exhibition grandstand show in Toronto.
In 1953 he was commissioned to carve two large totem poles and three other large carvings for Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta. In 1954 he began casting in aluminum, iron and bronze. This led to his production of an impressive body of work on public sculpture commissions for government, corporations and industry.
Arthur Price was a member of the Sculptors Society of Canada (1958), the Royal Canadian Academy (Associate-1960, Member-1973); The Arts Club, Montreal (1958), and the American Craftsmen's Council (1960).
Arthur Price experimented artistically with many mediums and art forms including woodworking, set design, metalsmithing, sculpture and painting. Throughout the course of a long, productive career Price was perhaps most recognized for his commissioned public installations displayed in the Ottawa region and across other Canadian cities.
Arthur Price passed away peacefully in Toronto, Ontario in 2008.
References: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker
National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada
Close up of one of the panels from Man Above Matter