Art Gallery admission is free and the gallery is open during JCC business hours, 7 days a week.
Benderson Family Building - Bunis Family Gallery, Getzville
Art exhibit by Jerry Birzon May 1 – June 30, 2017
Jerry Birzon was born in Buffalo, January 25, 1929. His interest in art began as a child, when he recalls sending letters with cartoons on the envelopes to his older brothers who were in the service. At age five he was stricken with polio, a condition that paralyzed him for a year, and at age 7, he was run over by a car by a negligent neighbor, but despite these setbacks, he wasn’t down for long and went on to play football and soccer at Bennett High School.
After graduating, Jerry worked for Becks Shoes before he was sent to Fort Rucker in Alabama for army service. In 1952, he married Gloria Podolsky who joined him in Alabama for six months to finish his service. When the young couple returned to Buffalo, Jerry joined with his brother Sid to build Birzon Jewelers, a wholesale jewelry business that continues to this day. “We attended all the major wholesale shows, shipped across the country, to Canada and South America, and even met celebrities like Liberace and Donny and Marie Osmond along the way,” recalled Jerry.
In addition to his successful jewelry business, Jerry built a landmark amusement park that continues to thrive today. “Gloria and I had four daughters and a son and when our second child was born, Gloria remarked that it would be nice if we didn’t always have to go to Canada and Crystal Beach when we wanted to take our children to an amusement park. So I thought up the idea and design for an amusement park and we found a builder and along with Buffalo partners including Sid Birzon, Larry Grant, Gordon Gross, Oscar Smuckler, we opened Fantasy Island.” Jerry recalls that the original name for the park was Fantasy Land, but when the Disney Corporation heard about the name which they already owned, they threatened to sue. “Since we were building on Grand Island, we changed the name to Fantasy Island and that worked fine,” says Jerry.
Jerry began painting in the 1960s after meeting artist Laszlo Szabo, (1895-1970) who came to Buffalo in 1924, from Budapest, Hungary. Szabo, who studied art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and at the Art Students League in New York, became one of the city's leading portraitists, and his paintings hang in many Buffalo area homes and public buildings. Internationally known and a fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts, Szabo was acclaimed in Budapest as one of the four outstanding Hungarian-born painters in the world.
“He was a wonderful artist and wonderful teacher,” recalls Jerry. “He was very strict about what his students painted and insisted that we always paint real subject, and never from photos.”
Today, Jerry continues to paint daily, both at his home in Buffalo and his home in Florida where he and Gloria spend their winters. All proceeds from sales of his current exhibit will be donated to the Jewish Community Center.