George and Sandra Batzli (left) with Bob Switzer (right), 2019. Photo by Della Perrone

A deeply creative soul, Sandra L. Batzli (1936-2020) held art and joy equally as principles to live by. She met her husband George at the University of Minnesota, where she earned her degree in Art Education. George was studying Psychology at the time and recalls those early days that included trips to the art museum with her. He remembers how Sandra loved discovering art newly each time they went, and how much he loved seeing that happen and hearing her talk about art.

After they married, George and Sandra moved together to California and their family grew as Sandra continued to hone new modes of art making, pursuing painting and ceramics. Eventually she began to teach art as George began his graduate studies in Zoology. All the while, Sandra maintained a home studio practice, creating art as a part of her daily life.

When the Batzli’s came to Urbana in 1971, Sandra’s signature creativity found a home in our community. She carved out space for a home studio and spent many hours volunteering. She became involved in local historic preservation organizations and worked in development at the University Library and the Museum of Natural History. And of course, Sandra and George discovered their campus museum, Krannert Art Museum.

KAM benefitted from Sandra’s multiple talents in significant ways. Making new friends came as naturally to her as making art, and she became a beloved member of the Krannert Art Museum Council and a fixture at exhibition openings, art talks, and member events. Sandra volunteered with the Council for several years and served as the group’s president. More recently, Sandra compiled and wrote a history of the KAM Council and served as the group’s archivist, eventually turning over her completed work to become a part of the University Archives.

Beloved for her warmth and creative spirit, Sandra also was treasured for her art making. Often, her art stood as a document of the couple’s travels and showed Sandra’s deep love of the natural world. She made and exhibited art across many disciplines from 1957 through 2019, including more than 50 art events in our area, including exhibitions, gallery displays, and donations of work for charity. In 2012, Sandra was awarded the KAM Council Unsung Hero award, recognizing her many years of service and enduring volunteerism.

During the past several years, George and Sandra began to talk about another form of service, asking themselves how they might provide others with the opportunity to experience Krannert Art Museum as vibrantly they had for nearly 50 years. Together they decided to fund an endowment that would provide unrestricted support for the museum, and so dedicated the Sandra L. Batzli Endowment Fund.

In George’s words, “We decided on it together and it felt right, because the museum was probably what Sandra enjoyed most at the university. We were involved at many places at the U of I, but we both felt such warmth at KAM.”

Now, Sandra and George’s enduring legacy will be preserved at the museum for years to come.