Balazs-ing in the new year

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The Art Spirit Gallery will ring in 2018 with local iconic artist Harold Balazs.

Since the 1950s, Balazs’ work has populated churches, colleges, parks, and numerous public spaces around the country.

This year’s show, I Did It My Way, features over 130 pieces representing the seven decades of Balazs’ work, including new paintings from 2017. Enamels, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and mixed media assemblages will be on display, ready for purchase.

At 89, Balazs is hanging up his hat, ready to retire. Looking back on his life as an artist, he has no regrets, confident he did it his way.

Balazs describes his life’s work with these words: “I make stuff because it is better than not making stuff.”

On Saturday, Jan. 13, beginning at 1 pm., a panel of Balazs’ friends will gather at The Art Spirit Gallery, 415 Sherman Ave., to share stories about this artist’s uncanny adventures and inspiration. The event is free and open to the public.

Patrons interested in receiving a sneak peek of the show can email The Art Spirit Gallery at info@theartspiritgallery.com.

Images of work from this show will be posted on the gallery website at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

• People can call or email the gallery beginning at this time to place their names first in line to purchase one specific piece.

• Patrons must be present at the opening reception, no later than 6 pm, to purchase the work or it will be released to the next person in line.

Born in Westlake, Ohio, a short distance from Cleveland, Harold Balazs learned the art of metal working from his father, a sheet-metal worker and air-conditioning repairman.

His mother, a woman who valued the arts, enrolled the budding artist in art classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Here Balazs became enamored with enamel panels and vowed to practice the same art form one day. And that he did.

Today Balazs resides on seven acres of paradise in Eastern Washington with Rosemary, his wife and devoted art assistant.

Etched in the public landscape

In the Northwest, Harold Balazs is a household name. And for those who have explored the region in the past six decades, chances are great they’ve been touched by his large-scale public art pieces. Metal sculptures, concrete reliefs, enamel murals, walls of carved wood and brick reflect the breadth of the artist’s creativity and decorate cities throughout Washington from Seattle to Spokane. Others dot the landscape in Oregon, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.

Perhaps his most famous pieces are found in Spokane in Riverfront Park, former site of Expo ‘74. Chosen as the primary artist for the world’s fair in 1974, Balazs created a 32-foot sculpture derived of twenty concrete panels and patterned after a Japanese lantern that dazzles visitors and illuminates at night. Centennial Sculpture, a curious and playful tangle of stainless steel completed in 1982, floats in the Spokane River. Balazs’ latest masterpiece for the park is the giant Rotary Fountain, a series of sprinklers and spouts supported by five 24-foot steel columns he co-created in 2006. Also famed as a leading liturgical artist, Balazs has created art – including carved doors and altars, enamels, and stained glass - for more than 200 churches and synagogues in the region since the 1950s, including Spokane’s St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and Unitarian Universalist Church.

Balazs can take responsibility for public art in Washington in more ways than one. Shortly after earning his bachelor degree of arts from Washington State University in 1951, where he was viewed as one of the top students of his program, Balazs served three terms on the Washington State Arts Commission and helped establish the Art in Public Places Program (AIPP) that facilitates the acquisition, placement, and stewardship of artwork in state-funded building projects throughout Washington. To date, more than 4,500 artworks are situated throughout Washington for public enjoyment thanks to AIPP.

An icon, he is

Over his extensive and productive career as an artist, Balazs has received notoriety throughout the country and has been honored with a plethora of prestigious awards, including the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architectural Craft, the Creative Achievement Award from the Enamellist Society, the Seattle Metal Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate from the Gonzaga University School of Law. His work is displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. And in 2001, Lloyd Herman, founding director of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, hand-selected Balazs for Northwest Designer Craftsmen’s Living Treasures video series. Also, Balazs’ contributions to the field were celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition in 2010 organized by the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and documented in a 160-page book published by the University of Washington Press.

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Information provided by The Art Spirit Gallery.

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