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NIKOLA BJELAJAC December 7, 1919 February 22, 2006 In sadness we announce the passing of Nikola Bjelajac on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at Seven Oaks Hospital in Winnipeg. Nik was born in Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A. He is predeceased by his parents, Trifun and Milka; and stepmother Ljubica; and his siblings, Ljubica, Vaso, Dusan, and Vita. He is survived by his nieces and nephews, Mildred, Dana, Nada, Gladys, John, David, and Robert. As a young man he served in the Armed Forces from November 1942 January 1946. He obtained a B.Sc. in Art Education at Milwaukee State Teachers College where he taught in 1946. In 1947 he obtained a M.Sc. degree at the University of Wisconsin and chose to find employment in Canada. He taught art at the University of Saskatchewan from 1947 1951 and again made a life choice to explore art elsewhere. From 1951 1956 he studied mural technique and sculpture at the school of painting and sculpture in Mexico. From 1956 1962 he taught at the University of Manitoba School of Art. He returned to work in Mexico for one year between 1960 and 1961. Nik never sought recognition for himself but between September 1961 and May 1962 he joined a group of five Winnipeg artists in an exhibition prepared for circulation in Ontario among the members of the Queen's Art Circuit. His fellow artists were Robert Bruce, Ivan Eyre, Donn Moulton and George Swinton. In 1963, he taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts and he returned to Winnipeg in 1964. In 1964, Nik, along with artist Steve Repa, founded the Forum Art Institute, a non - profit organization. Their concept for the Forum was to provide artists and would be artists an opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions, and work in a relaxed atmosphere with qualified instructors. They succeeded and the Forum grew and flourished. Nik had the ability to teach many students from all backgrounds and cultures with patience, understanding, encouragement and complete dedication to his craft. Some alumni have gone on to achieve great personal success and recognition. Nik's philosophy of the Institute was that art is a creative act, rather than the development of a trained skill and you will learn how to push the paint and the skill will come later. The City of Winnipeg honored him with a Community Service Award in 1995. His own paintings were done during summer break as he traveled earlier to the west coast and later all over the prairies and the Whiteshell camping right up to last year. His work graces not only businesses worldwide but also the homes of many students as he wanted art to be affordable to all who appreciated it. Forum Art patrons delighted in winning Niks paintings as he donated them regularly. Niks dedication to teaching has always been at the highest level both aesthetically and technically. He accepted everyone from the rank amateur to the advanced painter, and all of them came away the better, in their art and in their hearts and minds. He keenly eyed the exact placement of every piece of students' work for each exhibition. He optimistically saw the Forum Art uprooted many times and in our eighth location he felt this time we were home for good. His influence was immeasurable and his laughter will be missed. He has signed. A celebration of Niks life will be held at the Forum Art Institute, 120 Eugenie Street on Friday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Forum Art Institute or a charity of one's choice.
As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on March 04, 2006
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