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Blunk, Robert (1923-) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Blunk, Robert (1923-)

Historical Note:

Robert O. Blunk, Jr. was born in 1923 to Robert O. Blunk, Sr. (1902-1985), a mechanic, and Opal Blunk (1906-2004). He grew up in Salyards, Kansas during the Great Depression. Blunk, Jr. is the eldest of three children, his two younger sisters, Patricia A. and Nancy J., were born in 1928 and 1937, respectively.

In 1942, Blunk enlisted in the Marine Corps and served during World War II before returning to Kansas, getting married to his wife Katherine, and enrolling in art classes at Kansas State University. He soon enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute, after turning down an acceptance to study industrial design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. Blunk began teaching art in Chanute, Kansas at local schools and colleges and played a role in the establishment of the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum which opened in Chanute in 1961. He earned his master’s degree from (now) Pittsburg State University in Sculpture and, in 1962, joined the college’s art faculty.

Over the next two decades, Blunk held many art exhibits/shows and focused his work on community art, which was his true passion. This activism led him to Puerto Rico in 1969, where he was a consultant with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and working with crafts artists to develop markets for their work. Similarly, in 1995, he worked with street children and adults in Zambia providing them support for their works. Blunk retired from Pittsburg State in 1988, but continued to reside in Pittsburg, KS and completed many commissioned works in the early nineties and two-thousands. One notable work designed and completed by Blunk was the Wright brothers kinetic sculpture (nearly 90’ by 30’), which was dedicated in 2003 on Main Street in Chanute, KS, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the invention of flight. At some point between 2003 and 2008, Blunk moved to Denver, Colorado where he currently works in his studio creating primarily miniatures of sculpture, painted still-lifes, and interiors.

He has three children, Scott, Judd, and Rebecca (1953-2014), with his late wife Katherine (1923-2007).

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