Laurie Lives On: Beloved Eau Claire artists memorialized in Pablo’s permanent collection

Catey Leonardson

RAYS OF LIGHT. Works by the late Laurie Bieze, like the stained glass piece at right, will be part of the Laurie Bieze Permanent Art Collection at the new Pablo Center at the Confluence.
RAYS OF LIGHT. Works by the late Laurie Bieze, like the stained glass piece at right, will be part of the Laurie Bieze Permanent Art Collection at the new Pablo Center at the Confluence.

Laurie Bieze was a revered Eau Claire stained-glass artist who had both a giving spirit and great business sense. Laurie, who died in 2014, was a seemingly immortal woman with long braids, an infectious smile, and twinkling eyes with just a hint of mischief. When I was in her presence, I felt a sense of calm and peace wash over me, while simultaneously feeling her strong, feminine spirit shine through.

"Who knows how many other Laurie Biezes are out there? "– Rose Dolan-Neill, Pablo Center at the Confluence

Laurie had countless apprentices, but she was also adamant about making sure artists – including herself – were paid for their work. She was a huge supporter of women in the community and wanted to make sure their voices were heard, not only in art but also in politics and other arenas. Overall, Laurie was a key player in creating Eau Claire’s thriving artistic economy. Without the groundwork laid by Laurie and other artists, the Pablo Center at the Confluence wouldn’t be a reality today – and because of these contributions an ever-changing collection of works will be displayed there in her memory.

The Laurie Bieze Permanent Art Collection will be a living entity that will start with about 50 works – many from her closest friends – and will be updated as the seasons change. The collection will include four pieces by Laurie herself that showcase her wide range of talents: a lithograph on handmade paper, a wooden wall sculpture, a 3D glass sculpture, and a large stained-glass window she loved so much she could never bear to part with. All of the artworks are untitled – an invitation of sorts from Laurie to come up with our own thoughts about the pieces and what we desire to take away from them.

Art has a way of immortalizing its makers and allowing their legacies to live on. Art transports us into a dreamlike state where we can become endlessly inspired by the energy and love that went into its creation. The power of art to conjure a memory is strong, and Laurie will live on through this collection, one she so desperately wished she could have been here to see herself. “An Artist Forever: Highlights of the Laurie Bieze Permanent Art Collection,” will be on display in the Pablo Center’s Graham Avenue Walking Gallery from Sept. 22 (the date of the arts center’s grand opening) through Nov. 9. Come, enjoy, and be inspired. As the Pablo Center’s visual and literary arts manager, Rose Dolan-Neill says, “Who knows how many other Laurie Biezes are out there?”

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