Family, friends launch campaign to raise $100K for Confluence Project in artist's honor

Longtime Eau Claire artist Laurie Bieze was well-known for her stained-glass work. Friends and family are attempting to raise $100,000 toward the Confluence Project in memory of Bieze, who died in June.

Laurie Bieze died in June, but her friends and family hope memories of the longtime Eau Claire artist best known for her stained-glass creations will live on in the form of a proposed development designed to celebrate the arts.

Friends and relatives seek to raise $100,000 in Bieze’s honor, money that would be donated toward the Confluence Project, which would consist of a performing arts center and a mixed-use building at the merging of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers downtown. If that money can be raised, a gallery at the performing arts center will be named for Bieze.

“She touched this community,” Chel Bieze said of his mother, who died June 22 of cancer at age 70. “I think she knew she was important to people, but I don’t think she knew how important she was.”

David Caradori, the owner of Caradori Pottery, 359 Ferry St., said Bieze’s influence on Eau Claire’s art scene was significant, prompting him and other area artists to attempt to raise money for the Confluence.

“She was the matriarch of the whole art community,” Caradori said. “She had this dynamic personality that brought all the artists together.”

A committee has been formed to raise money in Bieze’s memory, Caradori said, although fundraising details have not been finalized.

Bieze’s longtime friend, Anne Lewandowski, said Bieze’s affinity for the arts and the Confluence Project inspire her to help raise money for the endeavor. Confluence developers are seeking state and private money to combine with dollars from the Eau Claire city and county governments to pay for the $77.2 million project.

Lewandowski first met Bieze in the late 1970s when Bieze moved to Eau Claire. The duo became friends instantly, the way Laurie did with many people, Lewandowski said.

“She had a wonderful spirit,” Lewandowski said. “She was friends with so many people.”

People close to Bieze, an enthusiastic backer of the Confluence Project, will celebrate her life Saturday. The celebration of her life will match Bieze’s spirit, Lewandowski said. The event, which will include songs and stories about Bieze, will occur at Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 421 S. Farwell St., home to stained-glass windows Bieze made.

The celebration will continue at Phoenix Park, where visitors will enjoy food, songs, love and laughter, Lewandowski said.

“After she got sick, we spent a lot of time talking about her memorial service,” Lewandowski said. “She would say to me, ‘I just love my life, and I want to make sure there is something wonderful and festive for my memorial service.’ ”

Kueppers can be reached at 715-833-9203, 800-236-7077 or courtney.kueppers@ecpc.com.