TARPON SPRINGS — This summer, a new exhibition will pay tribute to the art and life of Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin.
“Comin’ Back to Me: The Music and Spirit of ’69” will open Sunday, June 23, at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 E. Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs. The exhibition will continue through Sunday, Sept. 22. For details, call 727-712-5762 or visit www.leeparattner.org.
Kicking off the show, the museum will host a gallery talk Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m. The talk will feature Susan Joy Balin, wife of the late Marty Balin; and his daughter Jennifer Edwards. They will share memories and insights about Balin’s life as an artist. The talk is included with museum admission.
“Comin’ Back to Me: The Music and Spirit of ’69” focuses on the art and life of the musician. Balin is best known as the founder and one of the lead singers of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Balin started out his career in the music industry recording with Challenge Records in the early 1960s. After releasing the singles “Nobody but You” and “I Specialize in Love,” he formed a folk music quartet known as The Town Criers.
In San Francisco in 1965, Balin — working out of a former pizza parlor he converted into a music club — set about recruiting musicians for a new project. Paul Kantner was first to join the lineup. Balin next tapped female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson. Remaining spots in the original lineup included blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, drummer Jerry Peloquin and acoustic bassist Bob Harvey. Jefferson Airplane made its first public appearance at Balin’s club The Matrix in August 1965.
By October 1966, the band’s personnel had already been modified. The most notable change came when Grace Slick took over for Anderson. Despite the departures and new additions to the lineup, by 1969, Jefferson Airplane defined the San Francisco Sound. It was the first band from the area to achieve international commercial success.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Balin wrote numerous chart-topping hits as a key member of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship in the 1960s and 1970s. He continued to have a successful music career until his death in 2018.
The year 1969 saw a momentous intersection of politics, pop culture, art and music. “Comin’ Back to Me: The Music and Spirit of ’69” offers guests an opportunity to take a trip back in time through the eyes of Balin. In addition to his status as an iconic musician, Balin is known for his paintings of the rock legends and friends who inspired him, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia.
“Celebrating the 50th anniversary of 1969, this exhibition looks back on a pivotal time in American history through the eyes of one of the influential singer-songwriters of a generation,” explained Christine Renc-Carter, LRMA curator. “Named after one of Balin’s most popular hit songs, ‘Comin’ Back to Me’ dives deep into his personal archives to reveal the artist behind the music.”
To complement Balin’s paintings, the exhibition includes artifacts from his personal collection such as instruments, photographs, awards and original psychedelic concert posters. Adding context to Balin’s experiences are a video compilation and photographs by Mel Finkelstein of events in 1969. Friends of Balin have contributed items to the exhibition including iconic photographs by Herb Greene, catalog cover artwork designed by legendary poster artist, Dennis Loren, and a catalog essay by rock music critic and author Joel Selvin.
Additionally, guests are invited to “chill” in the black-light “chill lounge” and share memories of the ‘60s on a glow-in-the-dark graffiti wall, view vintage psychedelic posters from the LRMA collection, and experience a liquid light show created by Bob Pullum of Universoulightforms. Pullum co-founded the Brotherhood of Light in the 1960s and produced light shows for numerous acts such as Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and The Who.
This exhibition was organized by the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in collaboration with Susan Joy Balin.
In addition to the June 23 gallery talk, the museum will host a number of programs and events in conjunction with the exhibition. Following is a summary of scheduled events:
• Saturday, June 22, 6 to 8 p.m. — LRMA Members’ Preview Reception. Members of the public are welcome to attend the reception. RSVP is required by June 14. To RSVP, call 727-712-5762. The reception is free to members. Cost is $10 for non-members.
• Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m. — Gallery talk featuring Susan Joy Balin and Jennifer Edwards.
• Saturday, July 13, 5 to 8 p.m. — Chill-Out Festival at LRMA featuring Peace of Woodstock. All-ages indoor event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the renowned Woodstock music and art festival. The event includes hands-on art activities, gallery tours, food trucks, and a performance by the tribute band Peace of Woodstock at 6:30 p.m. For information, visit leeparattner.org/chillout.
Opened to the public in 2002, LRMA is a modern and contemporary art museum with a collection of more than 6,000 works of 20th and 21st century art. The nucleus of the museum’s permanent collection includes works by Abraham Rattner, a renowned figurative expressionist; Esther Gentle, Rattner’s second wife and a printmaker, sculptor and painter; Allen Leepa, Rattner’s stepson and an abstract expressionist artist; and an extensive collection of works by notable 20th century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger and Henry Moore. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction held by only 6% of all U.S. museums.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and free to children, students and active military with ID. On Sundays, docent tours are offered at 2 p.m.