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January 01, 2012
Prestigious Alumni: Michael Grucza
Michael Grucza ’78 is a serious sculptor with a child’s sense of exploration and play. He wants viewers to interact with his works, from the massive steel structures he has installed in public spaces across the Midwest, to his recent, two-foot by two-foot nickel-plated mesh houses that sparkle and change dimension depending on the viewer’s vantage point. “All of my work is, in one way or another, interactive. I want people to get involved,” he says. Grucza’s recent installation in Cleveland invites a particular interaction: tap on it and you’ll immediately know why he titled it “BOING!.” “You can play it like a drum,” the Chicago sculptor said over the reverberations of the springy structure on a recent visit to his installation, his alma mater, and his hometown.
THE BIRTH OF “BOING!” The son of a tool and die maker, Grucza is comfortable around the people, processes, and materials associated with heavy industry. He made a paper model for “BOING!”, then went to a facility that fabricates industrial boilers, where he bent and folded steel plates to create the eight-foot high, by twelve-foot wide, by eight-foot deep piece. When “BOING!” was temporarily installed in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, as part of that city’s Lakefront Sculpture Exhibition, Grucza sent a photo of it to CIA for inclusion in link. The image caught the attention of Bernice Davis, widow of David E. Davis ’48. Last year, she purchased the sculpture and had it permanently installed in Cleveland’s David E. Davis Sculpture Park, beside Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Euclid and Carnegie Avenues. “I thought it was a very interesting piece. I like it very much,” said Bernice Davis, who would like to install two more sculptures with Cleveland connections. So far, all three pieces in the sculpture park are by CIA graduates: “Portals from Everywhere” is by David E. Davis and “October Tripod” is by former CIA president David Deming '67.
A CIA HOMECOMING Grucza has fond memories of his CIA days, especially time spent with faculty members Carl Floyd, who he called the “get things done guy;” and the late Jerry Aidlin ’61, who he remembers as a “sensitive artist.” On his late autumn visit to campus, Grucza marveled at the modern equipment and spacious, sunlit facilities in the recently renovated Sculpture Department in the Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts. Recalling his student days he said, “We were shoulder to shoulder; it was a really cramped feeling. Now it’s really open and the light is phenomenal. It’s impressive. In a lot of ways, an environment like this changes the way you look at how you make art.” After CIA, Grucza entered a graduate program at the University of Iowa and then moved to Chicago where he launched his dual career as both a sculptor and a fine art restorer. He is thriving in both. “I’ve made a good living and I’ve never had a job,” Grucza likes to say. He quickly explains that he means he’s never had to work outside of art and design. His company, Grucza Studios, specializes in twentieth century sculpture, decorative arts, and architectural objects, art installation, and exhibit design; with clients including major museums, historical preservation groups, and prestigious private collectors. His sculptural practice has been tremendously successful. Grucza has recently had work in Art Basel Miami Beach, the Perdue University North Central Odyssey Sculpture Show; and Chicago Sculpture International. “Because of my background, I’ve been able to do so many things,” Grucza said.
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