Merry Norris (1940 - 2020)
Merry Norris is widely known to have been an enthusiastic supporter and advocate for cultural and civic life in Los Angeles, dedicating a nearly 35-year career to facilitating art and design in the city. Championing public art awareness and design excellence through her role in numerous major activities, Norris was instrumental in the founding and building of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) from 1979 to 1984, and was appointed in 1984 as one of the city’s first Cultural Affairs Commissioners. In addition to being named the first Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA) in 1990, Norris is the first person in the chapter’s history to be elected as a public member to the Board of Directors of AIA/LA in 1995, where she served for 14 years.
Always forming connections between the creative universes of art and architecture, Norris served on the SCI-Arc Board of Trustees since 1987. Over the years, she also developed and fostered close collaborative relationships with SCI-Arc cofounder Thom Mayne and former director Michael Rotondi. In recognition of Norris’s deep and lasting involvement at SCI-Arc, the school acknowledged her in 2017 as the honoree of its annual Main Event Gala. “I am fortunate indeed to have been involved with this extraordinary school and its faculty for so many years,” Norris said of the honor.
Herself an avid collector of modern and contemporary art, Norris led the transformation of many of the city’s public areas with large-scale works and spaces by known and emerging artists, such as converting a freeway-adjacent parcel in Santa Monica into Tongva Park, enhancing the West Hollywood library with major art installations by David Wiseman and Shepard Fairey, and commissioning a mural in Pasadena by artist Kenny Scharf.