Sports artist fulfills dream, opens studio in Lower Burrell
Larry Klukaszewski enters his art studio, punches the button to turn down the air conditioning and sinks into a couch draped on each side by a Terrible Towel.
These days “Klu,” as he is known, can sell his pieces while surrounded by cool air if he so chooses, but not out of necessity.
The renowned sports artist, whose work has impressed local athletes and is breaking out nationally, checked one more item off his bucket list this spring when he opened an art studio in Lower Burrell.
It was only a few years ago, in 2007, when Klukaszewski began selling his artwork out of the back of his vehicle during the holiday season.
“I was freezing, and I said, ‘Maybe I should try and start legitimizing myself,'” he says. “I always wanted to have a little storefront.”
Now that he's got one, Klukaszewski, 44, has big plans. The first order of business is summer art camps for kids from June 22 to 26, with a second camp from July 20 to 24. There will be sessions for kids ages 6 to 8 from 10 a.m. to noon and ages 9 to 11 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Klukaszewski, who teaches art to elementary students in the Kiski Area School District, says each day of camp will have a theme, such as tin Tuesdays, watercolor Wednesdays and tie-dye Thursdays. Kids can make all the art they want, and each camper gets a free T-shirt.
“It's a way to promote the arts in a positive way,” he says.
A lifelong artist and sports fan, Klukaszewski has made a niche for himself by taking sports artistry to another level. He paints on footballs, the blades of hockey sticks, baseball bats and even Terrible Towels.
“It's a little different than just the traditional pieces,” says Klukaszewski, who does standard prints and painting, as well. “
People enjoy being able to handle it.”
His imagination and technical mastery have garnered an impressive list of clients, such as former Steelers players Hines Ward and James Farrior, and even national figures like former Utah Jazz basketball coach Jerry Sloan and former NBA player Antawn Jamison.
Klukaszewski has a hint of disbelief in his voice as he ticks off the people he has worked with, as if even he can't believe his good fortune.
Things got even better for him when he was licensed by the NFL to produce a rivalry piece to benefit the Deacon Jones Foundation.
Naturally, he picked the Steelers-Ravens as his subject matter. He was tapped to do another rivalry piece this summer focusing on the Giants and Eagles.
It all adds up to Klukaszewski being a very busy man these days. He still teaches during the day, and he has three children with wife, Renea: Jake, 19, Sarah, 17, and Nick, 12.
Having the studio helps Klukaszewski better manage work and life. Before this, he worked out of a studio in his home.
“When I'm here, I'm productive,” he says. “Before, when I was at my house, it was easy to stagnate.”
With so much ahead of him, Klukaszewski might once again make himself at home in the studio.
“I'll probably sleep here some this summer,” he says as he pats the arm of the couch.
Ed Phillipps is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.