Saturday, June 24, 2017

Local Art Seen: Tribute to Russell Gran

After the closing of Washington Junior High School in the Central Hillside community of Duluth the building was converted to residences for the Washington Studios Artist Cooperative. One of it longest residents, Russell V. Gran, recently passed away and a special art event was held this past Thursday at the gallery there, curated by Eric Dubnicka, former curator at the Tweed Museum of Art and friend of Mr. Gran.

I've crossed paths with Russell Gran seemingly countless times over the years during annual studio tours or while covering art shows in the Washington Galleries, including a few shows featuring his own paintings. Even so, there was much I didn't know about his life and how he came to be living in Duluth. From the obituary this past week I learned he was not only a Denfeld valedictorian, but also a UMD valedictorian.

His first career was teaching before moving to Hartford, Connecticut in 1959 where he became an underwriter for the Traveler's Insurance Co. While in Hartford, he took graduate courses in literature and painting at Trinity College and the University of Hartford. In 1971 he moved to Boston and continued working as an underwriter, this time for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Because of his mother's health he returned to Duluth where he completed his master's degree in studio art at UMD.

His obituary mentions a gruff exterior that served as a facade for a humorous, sensitive and loving man. This gruffness must have become something of a trademark since this week's Duluth New Tribune story about the exhibition notes the passing of "a loveable curmudgeon." In point of fact, in 2012 Gran titled one of his art exhibitions Curmudgeon.

The June 22 art show at the Washington Studios Artist Cooperative was a celebration of his both his art and his life, titled Russell V. Gran: A Lift's Retrospective. Here are some of the paintings that were displayed and/or sold that evening.

He lived a full life, and left a big mark on a small part of the world.
A very special man, he will be missed.

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