October 27, 2021

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The Family gets ready for its new home on Granville Island

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Sculpture is three pieces and weighs almost 3,000 pounds

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After nearly a quarter of a century out of the public eye, Jack Harman’s iconic sculpture The Family is about to be installed in the Creekhouse complex on Granville Island.

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But not quite yet.

“They have to reinforce the feet, so that it meets the engineering standards of today,” said David McCann, general manager of Creekhouse Industries.

“Then they’re going to completely clean the statue and wax it, in case somebody tags it (with graffiti) — then we can take the tagging off.”

The work should take a few weeks, which means the statue will go up in the courtyard of the Creekhouse in late August. It will be part of this year’s Vancouver Biennale public art exhibition.

“It’s very rare that they’ll include a historical piece,” said McCann. “The nice thing is right behind it are the Giants, the silos that Ocean Concrete painted (for the 2015 Biennale). They were done by two brothers from Brazil. Now they’ll have a family to keep them company.”

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It’s been a long process finding a new home for the 1966 sculpture, which generations of Vancouverites will recall from the now-demolished Pacific Press building at Sixth and Granville.

The late Harman created many of Vancouver’s most renowned sculptures, such as Roger Bannister passing John Landy in the Miracle Mile, sprinter Harry Jerome in full flight, and the Lady Justice figure in the Vancouver courthouse.

July 7th, 1966: Jack Harman in front of his statue “The Family” after it had been installed at the entrance to the Pacific Press Building at 2250 Granville St. Province photo by Ross Kenward.
July 7th, 1966: Jack Harman in front of his statue “The Family” after it had been installed at the entrance to the Pacific Press Building at 2250 Granville St. Province photo by Ross Kenward. Photo by Ross Kenward /PNG

But The Family was far and away his most controversial piece, because it featured a naked boy in the family group.

It inspired angry letters to the letter and one attempt to dismember it with a hacksaw. But eventually the controversy died down and it became a local landmark.

The statue is actually three separate figures. The largest is the father, who stands 12 feet-six inches and weighs 1,700 pounds. The mother holds a babe in her arms, and is 11 feet-six inches tall and weighs 1,600 pounds. The teenage boy is nine feet tall and weighs 600 pounds.

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Harman’s son Stephen said the boy being unclothed was supposed to represent “a new generation stepping forward, shedding the metaphorical clothing and baggage of the past.”

The sculpture was commissioned by Vancouver Sun publisher Stu Keate in 1965 and was unveiled on July 6, 1966.

When Pacific Press (which published The Sun and Province) sold its property at 2250 Granville in 1997, The Family moved to the company’s new printing plant in Surrey. That closed in 2015 and the sculpture has been in storage since.

The Sun and Province told the public it was looking for a new home in 2019. McCann thought it would be a great fit for Granville Island, and The Sun and Province’s editor Harold Munro agreed.

It was moved to Granville Island in May, 2020, but it took over a year to get a city permit to erect it.

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“I was hoping to have it up on the 30th of July so we could celebrate Jack Harman’s birthday on the 31st of July, which is also my birthday,” said McCann. “But we didn’t quite meet that schedule.”

Harman died in 2001, but his son still operates his foundry, which he moved to Red Deer, Alberta. He brought some replacement parts to Vancouver this week for the re-installation.

McCann figures the cost of moving, refurbishing and reinstalling the statue will be about $75,000. Once it is up, it will be only a few blocks from its original site.

“It’s like most families, they like staying in the community,” said McCann. “So they’ve only moved a few blocks away from their original home.”

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The sculpture The Family by Jack Harman being craned into its location in front of the Pacific Press building on Granville Street in 1966
The sculpture The Family by Jack Harman being craned into its location in front of the Pacific Press building on Granville Street in 1966 Vancouver Sun
Being moved from a storage space in Surrey to Granville Island during the COVID-19 pandemic in May, 2020.
Being moved from a storage space in Surrey to Granville Island during the COVID-19 pandemic in May, 2020. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG
Closeup of the teenage boy in The Family.
Closeup of the teenage boy in The Family. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG
Jack Harman’s sculpture of sprinter Harry Jerome in Stanley Park.
Jack Harman’s sculpture of sprinter Harry Jerome in Stanley Park. Photo by Wayne Leidenfrost /Province
Jack Harman works on a bust of Dr. Norman Mackenzie, Aug. 2, 1976. One is for the City of Halifax and the other for Norman Mackenzie house at UBC. Rob Straight/Vancouver Sun
Jack Harman works on a bust of Dr. Norman Mackenzie, Aug. 2, 1976. One is for the City of Halifax and the other for Norman Mackenzie house at UBC. Rob Straight/Vancouver Sun Photo by Rob Straight/Sun Files /Vancouver Sun

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