AOTM - Erik BlomeErik Blome followed his father’s passion for art and has become one of Illinois’ most prolific artists. Blome specializes in creating massive bronzes. He has created the Blackhawks’ 75th anniversary sculpture at the United Center, a 9/11 monument in Oak Lawn and a statue of Jack Benny along with other sensational works. Blome’s art can be found in 17 states and in Canada.

Blome and his wife, Charlotte, have founded and run a non-profit organization called “When I Grow Up I Want To Be,” which brings art and other supplies, art workshops and attention to children from Ethiopia.


ILIHow long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion. If so, tell us about it?

BLOME: My father, Donald Blome, was an oil painter and graphic designer, and I think I really took after him from an early age. I can remember staring up at one of his abstract expressionist paintings that covered my crib to keep me from crawling out at night. My parents started buying me sketchbooks when I was very little, and I got a new one each year. I would doodle and draw in them to my heart's content. By the time I got into art classes in grade school, I was able to draw a little better than most of my classmates, but I never followed the teacher's directions very well. Looking back, I guess that's really the moment. I always answered "artist" when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Chicago Blackhawks 75th Anniversary Sculpture at the United Center. Chicago. Bronze. (1999-2000)ILIIllinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

BLOME: I was born in Chicago in 1967, steps away from my bronze bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable on Michigan Avenue that we put up in 2009. I never knew anything but the Chicago area as a kid. I would hang out at the Art Institute on free Tuesdays after following my father down to his graphic design studio at Jackson and Dearborn. That museum became an obsession for me. I memorized the layout and the artworks in each room, and I attended summer figurative drawing classes there at the school early in my high school days. I can also remember the smell of the printing inks and the vivid colors at the big printers we visited and my father used for publications on Printer's Row. Chicago's architecture is some of the best (probably the best) in the world, and my father's design studio happened to be in one of the most elegant, notable and historic Burnham and Root buildings, the Monadnock Building. I worked there as a junior designer during college summers, my window overlooking the entrance to the Union League Club across the street. I would walk the streets of Chicago stumbling upon Lorado Taft and Augustus St. Gaudens sculptural masterpieces, then marveling at the abstract Calder Flamingo at the Dirksen Federal Building. All these influences were things I saw as normal surroundings. Chicago was and is an incredible place to be an artist or designer. The art stores, galleries, museums urban environments, parks, public artworks and artists have always been among the best in the world.

"Ms. Rosa Parks"  Downtown Dallas, Texas.  Bronze. Life-size. (2010)Viewing Chicago from a business perspective now, I can't think of a better place to be. It is a short car or plane ride to any of my clients. When I lived on the West Coast for a time, getting to Virginia for a meeting was a three-day affair. But more than that, Chicago is a beautiful and friendly city that people on the coasts often don't understand. Lake Michigan is more like a freshwater ocean, and the Great Lakes region is unique in the world.

ILIWhat opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?

BLOME: Illinois has offered me great opportunities. I have created massive bronzes, such as the 12-foot-diameter bronze medallion set into the plaza at Lake County Forest Preserve's "Independence Grove" in Libertyville, depicting the variety of birdlife and flora in northern Illinois. I created the founder of Chicago on Michigan Avenue, Jean Baptiste du Sable, and sculptures in many of the suburbs including the entry sculpture at Mount Prospect's library, a 9/11 monument in Oak Lawn, Roselle's veterans memorial and the icon of Waukegan in comedian Jack Benny. Perhaps what people know me most for in Chicago is the original Blackhawks 75th anniversary sculpture at the United Center.

Chicago also offers affordable spaces and living quarters compared with other big metropolitan cities of its size and has a vibrant arts community. I have bought several different sculpture workspaces over the years that would have been impossible to afford in other parts of the country. The city sponsors more festivals and arts events than any other city through the Cultural Affairs Department. The universities here are among the best.

"Vortex" 12 foot diameter cast bronze relief for Lake County Forest Preserve Millennium Plaza.  Libertyville IL. Bronze. (2000)ILIWhat do you like about Illinois?

BLOME: I like the people here. It is the center of the Midwest, and people here have a work ethic and a strong tendency towards self-reliance. I also like the way people here are a bit more practical, straightforward and friendly as a general rule. I love the history of the prairie, Abraham Lincoln, Chicago blues and jazz, our operatic and dramatic weather, and the immense diversity of Chicagoland. Everyone comes here, and everyone fits in.

ILIWhat is your favorite medium to work in?

BLOME: I love bronze for its durability outdoors and beauty. But I recently did some large-scale granite carving and was seduced by that, too.

"Jack Benny"  Downtown Waukegan IL.  Bronze. (2002)ILIWhere can people view or purchase your work?

BLOME: My work is in 17 states and Canada, as I work on public art projects. But I also invite people into the studio for showings and have had numerous gallery representations in the past. Currently I am working on 12 larger-than-life-size bronzes for Toronto's Air Canada Centre of famous Maple Leafs players, commissioned by the hockey team.

ILIWhat artist inspires you and why?

BLOME: I love the old American artworks of Augustus St. Gaudens, Malvina Hoffman, Chicago's Lorado Taft, and Daniel Chester French. They represent a figurative tradition in the United States that got lost and then was only recently regained. I also am moved by great art from everywhere, including the ancient Egyptians, Greek, Italian, French and British. Among contemporaries, I admire greatly the sculptor Bryan Kneale in London, and the late Robert Graham from Los Angeles. The last two combine the technical mastery of the ancients with the contemporary sensibility of modern/contemporary art. That's hard to do.