Natrona resident Bill Godfrey creates art, community |
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Mary Ann Thomas

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley people and the notable things that they do.

A sunny day is best to visit artist Bill Godfrey, as the golden rays pour into his studio to illuminate the lavender and canary walls, and a palette of colors and textures in painted cement.

That’s not including the whimsical intensity of Godfrey’s own artwork and his mid-20th century modern collection.

Godfrey’s eye isn’t just trained for capturing and creating art but, apparently, communities as well.

A Tarentum native, he fell in love with Harrison’s Natrona neighborhood and bought his studio there more than 20 years ago.

Godfrey is best known for crafting massive fabric installations adorning bridges and other structures around the world for about 40 years.

He likes to take on big things.

Locally, he is the founder of Natrona Comes Together, a grassroots organization that over the years has pulled in an enormous amount of grants to transform the fading town’s park and other areas with artwork, educational opportunities and a continuing string of community projects.

He looks for hidden gems and bit by bit, creates masterpieces, whether it’s inside or outside his home studio.

Godfrey is a collector extraordinaire.

But a thrifty one at that — his limit is $3.

Free is good, too.

Mining thrift stores and, occasionally, Dumpsters, he has found designer furniture, knowing a good shape when he sees one.

He has a pair of stained-glass windows he found in a discarded, rotting door in Natrona that serves as a centerpiece in his studio.

“Be as minimal as you can be for wanting and acquiring things,” said Godfrey, which applies to collecting and more.

The recent death of his parents, Wilbert and Shirley Godfrey, married for 70 years, sent the artist back to his roots, causing him to retrace his visual past. And to appreciate the love and great character of his parents.

Looming large was Bull Creek and flower gardens.

He’s returned to working with wood, cutting and coloring wood, crafting a mosaic of wood, and using veneers for a wooden “marquetry.” Recent subjects included memories of Tarentum’s past such as morning glories, an old deer skull, grapes and pansies.

No matter where Godfrey has lived or worked, he finds not only his inspiration, but materials to work with.

“I am addicted to beauty,” he concludes.

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