Kent artist Danny Pierce, whose work graces collections at MOMA, Smithsonian, Seattle Art Museum, to have birthday gala

Kent artist Danny Pierce was just 4 years old when he saw a magazine photo of a cow that he wanted to trace. Pierce's cousin, however, had other ideas. "I wanted to trace it but he wouldn't let me," Pierce said. "I drew it. That started it." That cow drawing at his Woodlake, Calif., home helped launch Pierce's lifelong career as an artist and art instructor. He created a legacy of nationally recognized work, being recognized by the Washington Post in 1958 as "...of America's most outstanding graphic artists."

Kent Artist Danny Pierce sits below a self-portrait of himself at about 25 years old at the Centennial Center Gallery Thursday

Kent Artist Danny Pierce sits below a self-portrait of himself at about 25 years old at the Centennial Center Gallery Thursday

Kent artist Danny Pierce was just 4 years old when he saw a magazine photo of a cow that he wanted to trace.

Pierce’s cousin, however, had other ideas.

“I wanted to trace it but he wouldn’t let me,” Pierce said. “I drew it. That started it.”

That cow drawing at his Woodlake, Calif., home helped launch Pierce’s lifelong career as an artist and art instructor. He created a legacy of nationally recognized work, being recognized by the Washington Post in 1958 as “…of America’s most outstanding graphic artists.”

According to the Web site of Martin-Zambito, a gallery carrying Pierce’s work, he is “a renowned painter, printmaker and sculptor, the artist has works in various mediums included in the permanent collections of many of the world’s finest museums. Since the 1950s, he has also been producing hand crafted books which are written, illustrated and printed completely by the artist.”

Pierce also taught at several major universities, and locally at Seattle University and Cornish. He also established the art department at the University of Alaska in 1959, with assistance from a Carnegie grant.

But he now calls Kent home. And, in fact, is about to celebrate his 90th birthday Sept. 10, with applause from the city of Kent’s Centennial Center gallery.

Art lovers can celebrate with him from 5-7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 and see his work at the gallery, located 400 W. Gowe St., next to Kent City Hall. The opening reception also will feature a special showing of sculptures and hand-printed books by Pierce.

The Pierce exhibit, which features a selection of the artist’s oil paintings, watercolors, gouache, metal engraving, etchings and colored woodcuts runs through Oct. 29. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but closed on holidays.

Laura Haertel, a Seattle-based American art historian who helped set up the exhibit, said Pierce’s work shows a slice of American life in the mid-20th century.

“It’s a chance to see a lot of his work together in one place that spans a period of his life at different places in our country,” Haertel said. “He has paintings and drawings of a whale hunt in Alaska, logging in Oregon, lobster farming in Maine and cattle ranching in California that are all parts of the American experience in the 20th century.”

The whale hunt painting is on display by the back or south entrance to the Centennial Center. Pierce just finished the piece three weeks ago at his Red Door Studio at his Kent home.

Pierce drew the initial sketches of the whale hunt in the 1960s. He was hired in 1959 to start an art department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and decided to observe a whale hunt at Point Barrow during his time in Alaska.

“I’ve always had an interest in animal life and nature,” said Pierce, who grew up on a California cattle ranch.

Pierce started to sketch the Eskimos on the whale hunt and even helped them pull a whale onto the ice. The Eskimos rewarded Pierce for his help by serving him muktuk, the skin and blubber of the whale, for lunch.

The painting of the whale hunt shows the Eskimos in traditional handmade outfits and using handheld knives.

“Their knives were the length of a hockey stick,” Pierce said.

After teaching art in Alaska, Pierce worked as an art instructor for 20 years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He retired and returned to Kent in 1985.

Prior to teaching in Alaska and Wisconsin, Pierce studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles before he was drafted in 1942 during World War II. He served in the Army from 1942 to 1945. While serving in the Army, Pierce met his wife, Julia, in Colorado where she worked as a nurse after growing up in Kent. They have been married 67 years.

Pierce also attended the American Art School in New York and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He taught drawing for one year at Hunter College in New York and then took a job in 1953 as an art instructor job at the Burnley School for Professional Art in Seattle, now known as The Art Institute of Seattle.

“If anybody had told me at the time I would become a teacher I would’ve laughed at them,” Pierce said. “I use to stutter so bad I couldn’t talk.”

The longtime artist has work included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian and the Seattle Art Museum.

Even at 90, Pierce goes to his backyard studio each day after breakfast to begin drawing or painting. It can be a challenge for Pierce to come up with ideas for the drawings or paintings.

“Sometimes nothing happens,” he said. “But the next day something clicks. I do not wake up in the middle of the night and say ‘This has to be done.'”

Pierce never considered any other careers.

“The only ambition I ever had was to be an artist,” he said.

He has no regrets about his choice.

“I’ve had a good life,” Pierce said. “It is a good life.”

If you go

What: Danny Pierce art exhibit

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday through Oct. 29

Where: Centennial Center Gallery, 400 W. Gowe St.

Cost: Free


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Kent Police bust alleged chop shop on East Hill along South 240th St. | Photos

14 stolen vehicles, several trailers, car parts, firearms and drugs reportedly found on site

t
Sound Transit plans light rail community meetings about S. 272nd St. impact

Scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 14 at Woodmont Library on Pacific Highway South

t
Man identified who died of medical emergency in Kent while driving car

King County Medical Examiner’s Office rules death of natural causes in 132nd Avenue SE crash

t
Man, 29, fatally shot on Metro bus in Kent identified

No charges filed against shooter who reportedly acted in self-defense

t
Aegis Living Kent earns Joint Commission memory care certification

Program designed to enhance the care of residents who suffer from memory-impacting conditions

t
New Puget Sound Fire engines to hit Kent streets | Photos

Kent will get four new vehicles for East Hill, city of SeaTac one

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Discarded cigarette leads to arrest of Kent double homicide suspects

DNA reveals man, woman who reportedly killed two people in January 2023 at local motel

t
State Patrol chief thanks public for support of trooper shot in Kent

Trooper’s injuries are not life threatening despite being shot multiple times

t
Boy, 17, fatally shot in Kent in exchange of gunfire identified | Update

Shooting between subjects in vehicles Feb. 20 along East Valley Highway near South 180th Street

Car damaged by bullets during Feb. 19 Interstate 5 shooting. (Courtesy of Washington State Patrol)
King County Councilmember wants more info about I-5 shootings

The letter, addressed to WSP Chief John R. Batiste, comes in wake of a Feb. 19 drive-by shooting that occurred on I-5 in Tukwila that left a victim in critical condition.

t
Kent man, 83, dies after medical emergency while driving on East Hill

Reportedly died from medical issue prior to single-car crash Feb. 2o along 132nd Avenue SE

Rep. Mia Gregerson. COURTESY PHOTO, Legislative Support Services
Gregerson state bill aims to improve immigration support

Designed to better address needs of refugees, immigrants arriving in Washington state