Napa artist Gordon Huether is celebrating the silver anniversary of his world-renowned studio. He opened Gordon Huether Studio a quarter-century ago, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Huether said he began his love affair with art with a box of glass fragments that he transformed into a stained glass window.
Today his art can be found across the country and around the world. But one of his favorite pieces is in a small park in downtown Napa, next to Kohl’s department store.
It pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The memorial sculpture bears the names of those killed that day. Four glass panels are attached to beams recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Huether recalled his entry into the art world.
“I was about 17 and my father was basically trying to keep me off the streets at night,” he said. “He gave me that box of glass.” His dad worked as a window decorator in downtown Napa for 25 years.
The teenage artist later moved on to sand candles and other media, but giant glass works remain his trademark.
Huether was born in Rochester, N.Y., to German immigrant parents.
He never went to college. In fact, he was a high school dropout. “Just like Henry Ford,” Huether quipped. “It’s a good thing — my not having gone to art school; I didn’t have to unlearn anything.”
Not entirely true: Huether did an apprenticeship at Universal Glass Studio in Blieskastel, Germany, in 1982. Four years later he attended Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Wash.
Huether was in his mid-20s when he started his studio in his Napa garage with just $500.
He’s proud that today his works around the world “have an impact on people.” He has commissioned artwork at public and private venues, including airports, universities and museums.
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Outside Napa, one of the nearest pieces is at the Oakland Coliseum BART Connector Station. He calls it “Bouncing In and Out of Oakland.” It features colorful discs mounted on glass panels along the wall of the station’s platform.
How did he become so successful? “Well, I survived three recessions,” he said. “I think the secret to success is no secret. It’s really being willing to fail. Willing to be rejected. Willing to take risks. And having a sense of purpose and commitment.”
His philosophy about art, according to his website, is that “public art can considerably enhance a person’s individual experience of a space, shape its environment in a positive way, and hence bestow a new level of perception upon an otherwise every day experience.”
Asked if Napa encourages artists, he said, “It’s the other way around. Artists like me encourage Napa to step up its game. I’ve been a big advocate for public art in our community. And to have great architecture.”
To that end he was appointed to the Napa city Planning Commission in 2005 and continues to serve in that role.
At that time, he recalled, “I wasn’t really aware how city leadership works. I was focused on my own world.”
Huether hopes his work as a planning commissioner has helped “raise the bar for our expectations” in Napa.
Art is not Huether’s top priority. “First comes wine, then food, then wellness, then comes art,” he said.
Huether operates two facilities. He plans a surprise at his downtown gallery at 1465 First St. when it reopens.
That studio is temporarily closed for renovation. Huether said he will soon announce a new business at his studio site, but he’s keeping details under wraps.
“It’ll still feature my art, and that art will complement the other business,” he said. “That’s the secret.” He did not elaborate, preferring to make a surprise announcement. “I want to let the pot boil a bit,” he said.
His studio and gallery at 1821 Monticello Road includes a conference area for client meetings in addition to fabrication and office areas.