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‘Get your brain and hands busy’: City says goodbye to renowned artist Harold Balazs

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 27, 2018, 10:13 p.m.

Hundreds gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Church on Saturday to celebrate the life of renowned artist Harold Balazs, a man whose work will long outlast the 89 years he spent delighting the Inland Northwest.

That legacy, said fellow artist and close friend Steve Adams, will live on in everything Balazs created – including the sculpted decorations inside St. Charles.

“If you have a piece of his work, you have a piece of Harold,” Adams said.

Balazs, who died Dec. 30 surrounded by friends and family at his Mead home, was a popular figure in the region’s art scene, known best for his sizable, abstract sculptures.

The Rotary Fountain at Riverfront Park. The 1978 Centennial Sculpture floating in the Spokane River. The Lantern on the river side of INB Performing Arts Center. Some of Spokane’s most iconic features offer just a sample of Balazs’ work, which is featured from Seattle to Cincinnati.

Balazs is survived by his wife, Rosemary, and three children.

Dirk Stratton, who gave the artist’s eulogy, said Balazs had a simple way of approaching his craft.

“What distinguishes humans from other beings in the world is that humans make stuff. Lots of stuff,” Stratton said. “If you think about it, it’s about all we do. Harold would say, ‘Making stuff is better than not making stuff.’”

Tom Kundig, a Seattle designer who worked alongside Balazs, recalled one of his favorite Balazs-isms.

“He would say ‘Time is short, so you better get your brain and hands busy if you want to do good stuff,’” Kundig said.

Laughter filled the church as friends spoke of their experiences with Balazs, a man they described as jovial and compassionate, with a seemingly endless range of interests.

As Deborah Jacquemin closed, her voice lifting in “Amazing Grace,” a projector clicked through still images of Balazs’ long life, from his days as a teenage basketball player to his time as an outdoorsman and family man.

“If he walked into a room, he could fill that room,” said artist Ken Spiering, creator of the oversized Radio Flyer wagon in Riverfront Park. “Just his charisma, people gravitated to him.”


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