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Renowned Northwest sculptor unveils work at 77 Central

Washington sculptor Harold Balazs stands in front of his latest work of art, which was installed outside of 77 Central on Oct. 11. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
Washington sculptor Harold Balazs stands in front of his latest work of art, which was installed outside of 77 Central on Oct. 11.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

Renowned Northwest sculptor Harold Balazs stopped by downtown Mercer Island yesterday to oversee the installation of his latest work of art outside the 77 Central building. The giant stainless steel sculpture, titled "Circle of Friends" until Balazs decides on an official name, sits on what will soon be the completed street of 78th Avenue S.E., between 77 Central and 7800 Plaza Condos.

The block is currently closed to the public, due to ongoing construction. Yet it is set to open within weeks, allowing pedestrians to enjoy Balazs' latest work of art: a nebulous ring of intertwining forms.

77 Central developer Michael Christ personally commissioned Balazs, who has worked in multimedia art since the 1950s, to create a work of public art outside the new living community.

A longtime admirer of Balazs' work, Christ said he spent six months convincing the Eastern Washington resident to agree to the project.

"I'm just thrilled to see the final product," Christ said on Oct. 11, watching as workers smoothed the edges of the sculpture with an electric grinder.

Balazs also expressed satisfaction in his latest work.

"I'm very pleased with it. It's got nice scale," the artist said, adding that it took him more than a year to complete the art piece, which started out as 1,500 pounds of stainless steel.

Christ has gifted "Circle of Friends" to the city of Mercer Island as a public work of art. He thanked the city for helping the sculpture find a home in the Town Center.

"The city has really rallied to make this street special," Christ said of 78th Avenue S.E.

When completed, the street will include wide pedestrian sidewalks leading toward the Sculpture Park on its north end. It will serve as a public gathering place and become the 2010 location for the Island Farmers Market.

Balazs has another sculpture outside 77 Central on 77th Avenue S.E. — a bronze-colored, abstract sidewalk gate.

Indeed, the artist's work can be found all over Washington. He created a 30-foot enamel mural of rhododendrons that was displayed in the Seattle Kingdome before its demise. The mural has since been moved to the King County Administration Building. Balazs has a number of lasting sculptures in the parks and squares of Spokane, Wash.

The artist has also earned several accolades. The American Institute of Architects awarded Balazs with a gold medal in architectural crafts in 1967. He received a Washington state Governor’s Award in the Arts in 1988 and a lifetime achievement award from the Enamelist Society.

For more information on Balazs, visit his Web site at: www.theartspiritgallery.com.

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