Barney Zeitz, “a self-employed artist since 1972,” just had some of his stained glass windows installed in a church in Flieden, Germany, and two more windows are being shipped next week. Now he’s working on a forged and welded commission for his childhood hometown, Fall River. Zeitz is thrilled to be creating a “Cornerstone Sculpture project for Government Center” in the heart of downtown, hopefully in conjunction with a newly created green space. The project has “the go-ahead from the city council, and is two-thirds funded,” says Barney, who has thus far “added plywood to the corner form,” on top of which “comes paper to draw on, then stainless steel panels to weld to. The wood form is really strong and braced to the roof beam, workbench, and floor [to recreate] the exact angle of the wall in Fall River. The height is 10’ 6” tall and a total of 14’ 4” across the base (about 18′ including the corner).”
Barney hopes to move the sculpture higher up the wall so there can be a green element below where the quote — “To the enduring memory of our ancestors who have enriched this land: indigenous peoples, immigrants, the enslaved, and refugees. Their descendants and newcomers will continue to build a strong and peaceful community” — will be cut through and filled with bronze (a technique he created). Barney explains, “The figures will blend into the background and the landscape. It will be all hand-done.” He feels Fall River “gets a bad rap, but there is nice architecture, it’s up on a hill, and has the river.” Barney hopes adding a green area to the now-cement plaza at Government Center will revive this area, which when built “divided the city.” Both of Barney’s parents are buried in Fall River, and many friends from growing up still live and work there.
There is a place at the bottom of the narrows in Fall River that has workshop space where Barney would consider teaching someone else how to teach his techniques. Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth are interested in setting up programs where Barney could teach how to make metal lighting, or advise or consult, in the future. He’s not interested in leaving the Island, and loves his work. He mentored Gabe Bellebuono from age 16, now an official employee who will help Barney on this commission and other work.
On Sept. 22 Zeitz and his family will attend the dedication of his German windows at the Evangelical Church in Flieden, Germany. There are only six churches in Germany that have a plaque in recognition that their house of worship was originally a synagogue. The Evangelical Church in Flieden will offer Zeitz’s stained glass windows to honor that past and their present.
Barney Zeitz’s work can be seen at bzeitz.com or his Facebook page. Wednesday open houses continue through August 14 at his studio, 67 Deer Hill Rd., off State Road in Vineyard Haven. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-693-9421. If you are interested in helping support his latest project, see bit.ly/GoFundBarney.