Sara Balbin – Drummond, WI | Painting/Drawing,Sculpture
As a creative force, community leader, and bridge between cultures, few artists have had a greater influence in the upper Midwest than Sara Balbin.
Her large metal, stone and wood sculptures are found in public places, businesses and homes, locally, regionally and around the world. The dynamic works, instantly recognizable as her creations, interpret humanity and the surrounding environment. They illuminate the places and actions shaping life in the region. Her commissions have come from museums, colleges, businesses, town governments, tribal entities, nonprofit organizations and from private individuals. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Wisconsin Arts Board, Wisconsin Humanities Committee, EAA Aviation Museum, Chequamegon Bay Arts Council, foundations, and patrons of the arts.
Balbin’s activity across a large region has opened new opportunities for artists. As founder and first president of the Cable Hayward Area Regional Arts Council (CHARAC), she brought a focus for community arts activities to Ashland, Bayfield, Sawyer, and Washburn counties. In another initiative, her enthusiastic support encouraged the conversion of Hayward’s closed Park Theatre into the Park Center, a performing arts venue that has hosted weekly events for more than a decade. She has also had a long working relationship with the Bayfield/Ashland/Washburn based Chequamegon Bay Arts Council, participating in and supporting shows, workshops, and performances. Since 2018, she has written a column titled “For the Love of Art ©”, advocating for artists, events, councils, and health benefits of art.
While working as a certified art therapist, Balbin recognized the need for and benefit of meaningful creative work for individuals with disabilities. Collaborating with existing vocational and social service programs in Ashland and Hayward, she helped develop two nonprofit card businesses that integrated and supported the organization’s clientele. Taking this focus a step further, in 2012, she co-founded See My Art, Inc. (SMART) a nonprofit organization, designed to integrate the artists, their works into website, events and public venues. A grant funded a coloring book of SMART artist’s works.
Balbin’s artistic links through her Cuban heritage led to presentations for the National Council of La Raza, shows in the US with other Cuban-American artists, and participation in a 1997 invitational art show in Cuba.
Balbin’s long relationship with the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) community has informed and inspired what may be her most meaningful work. The LCO Tribal Government commissioned thirty-two tribal elder oil portraits. On permanent exhibit in the tribal government buildings, Balbin’s detailed and imaginative paintings tell the story of each individual. The collection represents the generational heritage of this unique community. With biographies and illuminating essays, her art was shared in the book Spirit of the Ojibwe; Images of Lac Courte Oreilles Elders, published in 2012 by Holy Cow! Press.
Northern Wisconsin is a region of scattered communities, separated by variable weather, long distances, limited resources, and sometimes tenuous connections to the greater world. In this place, it is easy to say, what can one person do to make a difference? Sara Balbin has lived her life to answer this question.