Nor­man K. Carl­berg

Sculp­tor served as di­rec­tor of MICA’s Rine­hart School for nearly four decades

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Nor­man K. Carl­berg, a noted sculp­tor who was di­rec­tor of the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art’s Rine­hart School of Sculp­ture for nearly four decades, died Nov. 11 from colon can­cer at Gilchrist Cen­ter Tow­son. The Roland Springs res­i­dent was 90. Fred Lazarus IV of Roland Park, who was pres­i­dent of MICA from 1978 un­til his re­tire­ment in 2014, re­called Mr. Carl­berg as “one of the core fac­ulty… who played a crit­i­cal role in shap­ing the MICA of to­day.”

“Nor­man was an in­di­vid­ual of few words but had the same el­e­gance and in­tegrity as his art work,” Mr. Lazarus said. “He was a won­der­fully sen­si­tive and car­ing in­di­vid­ual who was de­voted to his stu­dents; and they never ceased to ap­pre­ci­ate him as a teacher and men­tor.”

Nor­man Ken­neth Carl­berg was born in Roseau, Minn., and raised in Brain­erd, Minn. He was the son of Gus­tav Carl­berg, a lum­ber­jack, and his wife Alma Fors­berg, a home­maker.

He grad­u­ated from high school in Brain­erd and in 1946 worked in a lo­cal ship­yard build­ing rail­road cars. In 1950 he en­rolled at the Min­neapo­lis School of Art, where he stud­ied for a year be­fore en­ter­ing the Air Force.

Dis­charged in 1955, he at­tended the Min­neapo­lis Sum­mer School in Grand Marais, then en­tered Yale Univer­sity School of Art. There, he stud­ied with Josef Al­bers, an in­flu­en­tial art ed­u­ca­tor who was head of the de­sign depart­ment. Mr. Carl­berg re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1958 and a mas­ter’s in 1961 in sculp­ture, both from Yale.

A Ful­bright fel­low, he taught from 1960 to 1961 at the Univer­si­dad Ca­tolica in San­ti­ago, Chile.

While there, he met and fell in love with Juanita Koch. They mar­ried in 1961.

That same year Mr. Carl­berg came to Bal­ti­more when he was hired by MICA pres­i­dent Eu­gene W. “Bud” Leake, a noted land­scape painter, to be di­rec­tor of the Rine­hart School of Sculp­ture.

After MICA pur­chased and ren­o­vated Mount Royal Sta­tion from the B&O Rail­road in 1964, Mr. Carl­berg trans­formed the Rine­hart School from its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion in two Bolton Hill town­houses to more spa­cious ac­com­mo­da­tions in the for­mer pas­sen­ger sta­tion.

“As di­rec­tor of the Rine­hart School of Sculp­ture, Nor­man made it into a con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture pro­gram which at­tracted out­stand­ing stu­dents from all over the coun­try and world,” Mr. Lazarus said. “When MICA ac­quired the Mount Royal Sta­tion, he over­saw the de­sign and con­struc­tion of what be­came a fan­tas­tic stu­dio space for his pro­gram.”

By the mid-1990s, the Rine­hart School had been named one of the top five grad­u­ate schools in the na­tion by U.S. News & World Re­port. Rine­hart is a two-year mas­ter’s pro­gram which en­rolled 10 stu­dents — five a year. It re­ceived 12 or more ap­pli­ca­tions for ev­ery avail­able po­si­tion.

“I look for se­ri­ous works that move you as a work of art,” Mr. Carl­berg told The Bal­ti­more Sun in 1996 in ex­plain­ing how he se­lected his grad­u­ate stu­dents.

“The best thing is to see work that’s ex­cit­ing, by some­one who’s ex­cited about be­ing an artist. I’m not look­ing for fa­nati­cism, but ded­i­ca­tion, the in­ten­sity of hav­ing to do things,” he said. “The school has al­ways re­flected a di­verse group of in­di­vid­u­als, with no par­tic­u­lar strong phi­los­o­phy.”

“Nor­man was per­fect for the sit­u­a­tion,” said Rod­ney Car­roll, a Pig­town sculp­tor who grad­u­ated in 1983 from Rine­hart. “Pre­vi­ously, Rine­hart was a fig­u­ra­tive school, and he took it into the mod­ern and ab­stract era. If you wanted to teach, you went to Yale, and if you wanted to be a sculp­tor, you went to MICA.”

He said Mr. Carl­berg brought im­por­tant vis­it­ing sculp­tors to Rine­hart.

“He brought in big names, peo­ple we wanted to study with,” Mr. Car­roll said. “We would give him names and he would call them up and in­vite them to come to MICA.”

“Nor­man cre­ated a rich and fer­tile en­vi­ron­ment and al­lowed us to go our own way, but he was a per­fec­tion­ist and ap­pre­ci­ated dili­gence,” he said. “He was sup­port­ive of peo­ple who worked hard.”

Mr. Car­roll re­called his teacher’s modesty: “He was a mild-man­nered Swede from Min­nesota who never blew his own horn.”

Jim Ada­jian, a Hamil­ton res­i­dent and co-owner of Ada­jian & Nel­son, a Ham­p­den fur­ni­ture restora­tion busi­ness, was a Rine­hart stu­dent who grad­u­ated in 1979. He said Mr. Carl­berg “had a lively in­tel­lect and a nat­u­ral feel for a wide range of art, which made him ex­cep­tion­ally ac­cept­ing of all of his stu­dents’ art work. He en­joyed hav­ing a lot of vari­a­tion among his stu­dents.”

He could also be a match­maker. “I met my wife, Mari­pat Neff, at MICA. We were in the same pro­gram and sculp­ture class and were in­tro­duced by Nor­man,” said Mark Sul­li­van, a Park­ton land­scaper and owner of a small farm. “We mar­ried in 1983.”

Mr. Carl­berg’s own work earned him ac­claim. In 1962, he won a Ford Foun­da­tion Award and four years later took the Mu­seum Prize from the Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art. His work also re­ceived the Gretchen Hut­zler Award in 1966 and 1967.

In 1969, he was pre­sented the Dr. V.W. Baren­burg Memo­rial Award and was named one of the top 12 artists in Mary­land by Bal­ti­more Mag­a­zine.

Both the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in New York and the Hir­sh­horn Mu­seum in Wash­ing­ton pur­chased art­work from Mr. Carl­berg for their per­ma­nent col­lec­tions. After the death of Mr. Al­bers in 1975 the Guggen­heim Mu­seum in New York ac­quired his art col­lec­tion — which in­cluded a piece of Mr. Carl­berg’s.

His art can also be found in the Penn­syl­va­nia Academy of Art in Philadel­phia, Ad­di­son Gallery of Amer­i­can Art at Phillips Academy in An­dover, Mass., the Art and Ar­chi­tec­tural Gallery at Yale, and the pri­vate col­lec­tion of Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect Harry Sei­dler.

“I per­son­ally love the full range of Nor­man’s work: sculp­ture, graphic work and pho­tog­ra­phy,” said Mr. Ada­jian. “Hav­ing re­mained friends with him since I grad­u­ated, I’ve been most deeply im­pressed by his con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent art work, and that he was al­ways mak­ing art, even dur­ing the last year of his life.

“His at­ti­tude to­ward art was open­minded, al­ways ques­tion­ing, some­times very funny, but the fo­cus was al­ways on the art it­self,” he added.

“[Nor­man Carl­berg’s] art is clas­si­cal in its sim­plic­ity of for­mal el­e­ments (shape, color, line), its ten­dency to­ward sym­me­try and the quiet pu­rity of its pres­ence,” wrote the late Bal­ti­more Sun art critic John Dorsey in a 1996 ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Mr. Carl­berg, who lived in a Lan­vale Street row­house be­fore mov­ing to the Roland Springs neigh­bor­hood, re­tired in 1997.

He en­joyed read­ing, but the “fo­cus of his life was his art work,” said his son, Ken­neth Carl­berg of Alexan­dria, Va.

A memo­rial ser­vice for Mr. Carl­berg will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tues­day at Cor­pus Christi Ro­man Catholic Church, 110 W. Lafayette Ave., Bolton Hill.

In ad­di­tion to his wife of 57 years and son, Mr. Carl­berg is sur­vived by a sis­ter, Flora Mock of Hen­der­son­ville, Tenn.; and sev­eral nieces and neph­ews.

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