Contemporary Arts International

Director’s Words:                                                                                                                                                                                    


A sad news – Our Board James Norton (1957-2016) passed away on Sunday November 13 due to an heart attack while chaperoning the boy scout field trip in the White Mountain. An angel as he has always been, James passing is a great loss for CAI and the community… The church service was held on Nov 19th at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Acton, the reception was held at CAI’s Main Hall.

(OUR BELOVED JAMES by Yin Peet and Viktor Lois at the reception 11/19/2016)

First we want to testify what the boy scout earlier at the Church service calls James the “Level Four” man is so true. We  had a Board meeting 2 weeks ago, the jobs James took upon himself is much heavier than any backpack he had helped to carry; I further testify what the Minuteman names James an Ambassador is also very true. CAI every year has many international artists coming through, James was able to get across to them what the good solid American culture is with his knowledge, patience and humor.

As a public space, an art organization, there are a few things that have repeatedly been coming out of my mouth at Openings and daily operation, but it just dawned on me that the most frequently said phrase actually has been, “Hey our beloved James is here.” This has happened very regularly on Saturdays. I said “beloved” because his showing up meant Viktor is getting his big-boy’s toy – some fascinating industrial stuff. CAI is getting something we need but have no money to obtain, and I have someone to release my pent up, week-long CAI operational stress to. And more than that, there will always be good laughter. OK, sometimes we also have a bottle of beer to drink. Viktor calls James “his art collaborator”. James has the eye to spot what the deserted gadgets could become, and Viktor realizes it. An artist, Viktor calls him.

The Quarry art ground has been protected under the Norton family’s wing starting from Day one, James’ mother Toni Norton assured the skeptical Acton public at Town Meetings that our idea of establishing an art ground on this land was a good one, and James advocated for our good intentions ever since whenever there was a need. For more than 10 years we have tried to transform this industrial dump into an art space without much support and funding, but James helped us bit by bit to put in place what is needed for the organization to function. To name a few things: gate for security, the lights and speakers for the performance hall, material and gadgets for artists to create artwork, help when events were to happen, to advocate for the organization with visitors at Openings. He watched over the Quarry’s safety like his own house. He and Jamie bailed us out from being stuck 40 feet up in the air several years ago. When we had questions about Town affairs we asked James. When we needed to find rare construction materials we asked James. How to deal with the fish in the pond, we asked James. When there was a conflict over cultural differences, we asked James. We knew James didn’t have a PhD, but he sure had the equivalent in practical know-how and experience.

James put the word “humanity” tangible, his contribution was multi-faceted, not only as a Board member, but also as a neighbor, a dear friend, and the most generous individual in this community. His dedication to his family, his serious involvement in the boy scout, the Minuteman and of course CAI, has reflected his “mission for humanity” down to earth into practical everyday life. The areas of work he did from as big as promoting education, American culture and the Arts internationally to as small as taking his precious time on weekends to walk the entire Quarry Road and NARA Park with a plastic bag cleaning up garbage. Many a weekend, while driving my truck, from far away I could see a guy moving here and there with a long stick in his hand picking up something from the ground. When I get close, sure enough, this gentleman with a cigar in his mouth, casually picking up the public’s trash was our beloved James.

James had lived a very full life. We know he has earned his seat in heaven and is now watching over us. Instead of yelling out to Viktor on Saturdays “hey our beloved James is here”, I know our beloved James IS here. His spirit is with us forever, and we love him. (11/19/2016 at CAI)


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