Professor maintains passion for art


Lily Stephens

Sophomore Erynne Jamison works on her ceramic birdhouse with the assistance of Professor Inge Balch.Balch spends several hours a day in the Bennett Art building teaching and firing students pieces

“I’m a piece of inventory by now, I’ve been here so many years,” Professor of Art Inge Balch chuckled, her beaded necklace, striped sweater and purple glasses emphasizing her zealous and youthful spirit, her creativity and her artistry.

Balch came to the United States in 1961, with no plan, higher education or career path.

“I took a job and a freighter to see the world and find the streets paved with gold … I’m still looking,” Balch jokingly said.

After working as a nanny for several years, she got a job offer as a design researcher in San Francisco, but never made it out to the west coast. She met her husband on the way, flipping burgers at a bowling alley for extra cash.

After completing her undergraduate at Kansas State University and her masters at the University of Kansas, where she specialized in textiles and ceramics, she took a replacement position in Baldwin City.

When Balch came to Baker in the fall of 1988 as interim art professor she only planned on staying a semester, yet 30 years later you can still find her peering over a kiln in Bennett Art building, a place she now refers to as her “home away from home.”

The building itself was only supposed to be standing for, at the longest, 20 years.

“It’s falling apart,” Balch said.

Yet it has been a creative haven, fostering artistic passion and releasing students’ stress for       three decades.

Balch has taught a wide variety of diverse cultures, majors and personalities, and cherishes the memories she has, the relationships she’s made and the students she    has influenced.

In the 90s, Balch vividly remembers Taiwanese and Japanese foreign exchange students, who she developed a sincere bond with.

“They were here for the arts,” Balch said. “I would come in the morning and have to step over sleeping bodies.”

These are the relationships and communication that keeps Balch just as enthusiastic and eager to spend day after day between clay covered cement walls and paint-splattered floors.

“Every day is fond—it’s a new adventure, a new person,” Balch said. “What more could I ask for?”

Thirty years, hundreds of art pieces and one old art building later, Balch refuses to let her passion fade and is driven to encourage confidence and independence in the young adults she teaches.

When asked how long she plans to continue her legacy on campus, Balch said she plans on staying until “they carry me out feet first.”

Contrary to her warm sarcasm, Balch said she truly doesn’t know when her journey here will be over. Until then, Balch will stand as a symbol of encouragement, imagination and a zeal for life and learning.