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RIP, Chris Sorensen, 98: Fresno's 'Man of Steel' and ArtHop Founder
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
March 13, 2024

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Chris Sorensen, known as Fresno’s “Man of Steel” for his metal sculpture, died Friday.

Sorensen’s south Fresno studios and gallery were the founding location for the city’s ArtHop.

His career as an artist began when his son took art classes at McLane High and asked for his help to learn welding.


Metal sculptor Chris Sorensen, a giant in Fresno’s art world who was as well known for his own work as for advocating for the works of other artists, died Friday. He was 98.

Once asked about the best gift he’d ever been given, Chris Sorensen replied, “Life. You know what I want for Christmas? Another one.”

Nicknamed the “Man of Steel,” Christian Marius Sorensen Jr. founded the Chris Sorensen Gallery & Studios, proclaimed as “The Heart of Art in Fresno; Where visual, performance, and culinary artists collide for 30+ years!”

He brought working artists and their work to an industrial part of south Fresno and provided the original home for Fresno’s ArtHop, which has since spread to many locations across the city and is held monthly on the first and third Thursdays.

His death prompted many tributes on the Fresno Art Museum’s Facebook page.

“Chris was loved by everyone for good reason. I first met him in a sculpture class at Fresno State in 1990 and had the honor of being a part of the studio for years. He was an incredible man.” — Léa McAndrews

“Thank you for so much from all of us, dear Chris. You did so much for the arts, and every one of us. May you rest in peace and in love.” — Jackie Ryle

“Chris was pure love…he touched each person he met with his acceptance, understanding and love. He always had a smile – such a kind heart…he will be missed by all…❤️ “ — Yosemite Gateway Art Center

A celebration of life gathering is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at Chris Sorensen Art Studio, 2205 S. Van Ness Ave., Fresno.

 

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Art Was His Second Career

According to a 2015 Fresno Bee article, Mr. Sorensen grew up in Mendota before he moved to Fresno, where he graduated from Fresno High School in 1944. He used to joke that he had slept with famed aviator Amelia Earhart — he was 5 when she was passing through Mendota and his parents put her up for the night in his bed, alongside him.

Sorensen used to joke that he had slept with famed aviator Amelia Earhart — he was 5 when she was passing through Mendota and his parents put her up for the night in his bed, alongside him.

The Bee reported that Mr. Sorensen joined the Navy during World War II and then returned to Mendota to work in the family’s machine works business. He moved to Fresno in 1955 and started Weco, a welding supply business, in 1963. He and his wife Mitzi had two children, John and Vicki.

His career as an artist began almost inadvertently when his son took art classes at McLane High School and asked Sorensen for help with welding. From there, the elder Sorensen began taking art classes himself.

In a 2014 interview with Zócalo Public Square, Mr. Sorensen talked about being his most creative at 4 in the morning. What did he like best about Fresno: the people and the heat.

As for the best gift he’d ever been given: “Life. You know what I want for Christmas? Another one.”

A Chris Sorensen metal sculpture at Ashford Advertising, 1528 N. Sierra Vista Ave,. in Fresno. (GV Wire/Paul Marshall)

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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