Firehouse Art Gallery holds “Light of Life” Gallery honoring John Bayides

Published 1:51 pm Sunday, March 12, 2023

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This past Thursday, March 9, would have been local artist John Bayides’ 100th birthday. To celebrate his work and legacy, the Firehouse Art Gallery debuted the John Bayides Light of Life exhibit on Thursday, which will remain on display until the 26th of this month. According to Firehouse executive director Jessica Polsky, there are well over 100 pieces of art on display as part of this exhibit, making it the largest collection the gallery has held.

Bayides, originally from Boston, moved to Attapulgus after his service in World War II. Initially starting out on a farm, he moved to a job in engineering. He had attended art school previously, but didn’t truly pursue it until 1966, when lower back surgery left him laid up on bed rest. It was during this time that he revisited painting, and truly dove into the art with gusto, and after retiring from engineering in 1984, it became his sole work.

After Bayides’ passing in 2017, his grandson, John Bayides III inherited his extensive collection of artwork. “He always said, ‘One day you’ll be able to build a house with all these paintings.’ I really honestly thought it was just gonna be nailing the paintings together and making a house,” he joked. Bayides III estimated his grandfather painted close to 3,000 works in his lifetime.

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Each of the 140 pieces on display at the Firehouse is for sale, with the family having set the prices; with each sale, 95% will go to the family, with the remaining 5% going to the Firehouse as commission. Polsky explained the theme of the gallery, “Light of Life”, as something Bayides had somewhat talked about in life, having wanted to have a gallery or show centering around lighthouses. While that never came to pass in his lifetime, there are several of Bayides’ renditions of lighthouses featured prominently in the gallery. “We’re just honored to be able to hold this,” Polsky said. “He was one of the founding members of the Decatur County Council for the Arts, and one of key people in making this building possible.”

Polsky estimated a crowd of at least 100 turned out for the opening night. Bayides III, as well as his sister Lynn Baumgartner, were present that evening. “He loved this community, and this community obviously loved him,” he said, “and that really makes us feel warm and welcome.”