Métis artist leaves a legacy in Victoria

Frank Lewis made cultural contributions to his communities

Frank Lewis poses before a mural he painted in an underpass where the Galloping Goose trail crosses Gorge Road.

Renowned muralist and painter Frank Lewis’ work adorns bridges, museums and many businesses throughout the southern Island, across Canada and even at the Canadian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The six-foot-six, blue-eyed Métis artist died March 6 at 81.

In September, Lewis unveiled his last public painting, Honour Creation, at the Royal Jubilee Hospital’s healing centre. He described the piece as the culmination of his 65-year career.

“I decided I would concentrate on the only thing I had left to do, to explore the spirituality within me that was still there and fresh and strong, and had been all throughout my career,” he told the News at the time.

Victoria Pruden, vice-president of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria, said Lewis was a gift not only to Canada, but to the Métis people as a whole.

“It’s hard to put into words the way Frank is able to communicate so many aspects of us – positive, spiritual, healing – but also some of the challenges we’ve had as Métis, of being the invisible people,” Pruden said. “He’s able to transition such a poignant part of our soul and our experience through art.”

Lewis was born to a Cree father and Scottish mother in Winnipeg, but graduated from Oak Bay High in 1952. He earned a scholarship to Vancouver School of Art, now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

He embarked on a rich career in commercial art, winning awards as a graphic designer for magazines, books, CBC television and dozens of musical artists.

He was also a successful stage actor, appearing in the National Arts Centre premiere of George Ryga’s The Ecstacy of Rita Joe in 1967.

Since 1982, Lewis designed and painted dozens of murals, including “Bridging” along the Galloping Goose Trail, “Time Steps” on the Luxe Building at 1114 Langley St., the interior of Peacock Billiards and Vancouver’s 100th anniversary mural on the outside of that city’s Maritime Museum.

Lewis met his wife, Margaret Parker, at his 40th high school reunion in 1992, a moment he recalled as “love at first sight.” She was at his side when he died.

A celebration of Lewis’ life will be held at McCall’s Funeral Home, 1400 Vancouver St., on Friday, March 22 at 2 p.m.

A service will also be held in Vancouver at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Pacific Opera Victoria, while condolences for the family can be submitted at mccallbros.com.

dpalmer@vicnews.com