1940 to Today
Began education and career as an artist after the birth of her child and the death of her first husband. Moved from Johnson, VT to Kansas City, to study art. Returned to VT, re-married and erected a sign in front of her home "Paintings of Vermont by Georgia Balch." Sold her oil paintings to Vermont tourists, photographed local scenes extensively and painted composites of those photos.
Date of Birth1888
Date of Death1981
Georgia (Wells Stearns) Balch was a teenager when she emigrated with her family from Frelighsberg, Quebec, Canada to Johnson, VT, where her parents bought and ran the local hotel. The ebullient teenager was educated in local schools, and had a passion for "dabbling in watercolor" when she married the town's most eligible bachelor in 1914, Chester Arthur Stearns. They settled in a grand home on Stearns Street (Vermont Route 100C), built by her new in-laws as their wedding present to the young couple.
Within four years, The Stearns' had a baby daughter, Joyce, and soon thereafter, Chester Arthur died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. To cope with her loss and grief, Balch took her young child and went to Kansas City to study art, (presumably at the Kansas City Art Institute, which was a thriving art school at the time.) Her studies enhanced her passion and focus as an artist which never dimmed throughout the rest of her life.
After Georgia and Joyce returned to Johnson, Georgia married Roman Balch, who ran her father in law's business, and she ran the household and painted for the rest of her life. A small sign was erected in front of the house, reading "Paintings of Vermont by Georgia Balch," and a form of cultural tourism was born! Tourists from all over, motoring through Vermont, stopped at the Balch household in Johnson to buy Georgia's oil paintings of the Vermont landscape - many of which she painted in plein air, and others of which she painted from photographs she took when one of her relatives would take her for a ride, often creating composites of a particular scene.
Her family remembers that Balch was equally at home in her studio and in her kitchen, and had the ability to switch intense concentration from one to another smoothly, including the interruptions of her grandsons. Balch often made meals for visiting artists, and treats for the tourists. One story the family recounts with fondness has the famous American artist, landscape painter Emile Gruppe, coming by for dinner, and going into Balch's studio while she cooked. He finished the painting on her easel for her, which amused her for the rest of her life! (Unfortunately, a record of which painting has been lost, but it was probably sold, as Georgia sold most of her paintings.) The gallery at Johnson State College gave her a major exhibition in the late 1970's.
When Balch's hands became too arthritic for her to paint, she switched to stitching landscapes in yarn - "Yarn Paintings," she called them for which she likewise developed a following.
Balch died in 1981 at age 92.