John K. Gutierrez

Woodberry-based metals artisan helped design several city restaurants, as well as the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden

March 01, 2010|By Jacques Kelly

John Kennedy Gutierrez, a Woodberry-based metals artisan who was part of the design team for the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden, died of cancer Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Medfield resident was 45.

"He had an indomitable spirit and the things he made were magic," said Baltimore developer William Struever. "He was a rock, a pillar of goodwill. His works were gorgeous but always enormously practical."

Mr. Gutierrez worked with numerous architects and designers and helped create Woodberry Kitchen, Tapas Teatro, Red Star and Copra restaurants. He collaborated with glassblowers and other artisans, and built the gates and benches for the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden at Charles and Franklin streets.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Cowpens Avenue in Towson, he was a graduate of Loch Raven High School and the Rochester Institute of Technology's School for American Crafts. He studied furniture and design.

He worked out of his parents' garage and later moved to an old tractor building at Clipper Mill in Woodberry. He initially took commissions to make custom furniture and later went into metalworking. At his death, he had nearly 20 metal artisans working at his studio.

"He was an enormous part of the arts scene in Baltimore," said Jane Lears, a friend who lives in Eldersburg. "He was a magnet who drew other artists. He had a vision to building his own studio. He attracted people with wine and strong coffee. It was an amazing time for artists and musicians."

She recalled his exuberant and positive personality. "As much as he built things in wood and metal, he also built relationships with people," she said.

Mr. Gutierrez's projects varied. He made the informational pylons for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington and metal console tables with sleek wood tops.

"The jobs come in and out so fast I can't remember them all," he told a Baltimore Sun reporter in 1998. "The artisan has claimed the rusted industrial belt of Baltimore."

Friends said that Mr. Gutierrez seemed most at home in the former Poole & Hunt foundry buildings in Woodberry, where he worked as a young artisan and, after its redesign following a 1995 fire, had an expansive studio. He built exterior light posts at a pool, railings and a fire pit at the Woodberry complex.

"John's firm, Gutierrez Studios, has been responsible for helping enhance environments through quality design and construction," said Baltimore architect Robert W. Gehrman, who recalled architect Mies van der Rohe's phrase, "God is in the details."

"John took that quote to heart in creating the details that made our ideas look really good," he said.

Mr. Gehrman said that "excellent work is rare these days, and no one was more concerned with craft and design than John."

Throughout 2008, Mr. Gutierrez and his staff built the iron gates, fencing and ecumenical frieze at the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden.

"He was a very talented designer who could take a concept and lead you in the right direction," said landscape architect Scott Rykiel, whose firm designed the garden. "Even when he was late with a delivery, you could not get annoyed. What he produced was so perfect."

Mr. Gutierrez's design work was shown over the weekend at the American Craft Council exhibition at the Baltimore Convention Center.

A life celebration will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Gutierrez Studios, 2010 Clipper Park Road in Woodberry.

Survivors include his partner of 30 years, Roya Golpira; five brothers, Robert D. Gutierrez of Timonium, David B. Gutierrez of Salisbury, Richard J. Gutierrez of Lutherville, Keith C. Gutierrez of Baltimore and Glen G. Gutierrez of Towson; three sisters, Claire G. Keane of Berlin, Md., Elizabeth G. Reitz of Towson and Diana M. Gutierrez of Lutherville; his father, Roberto I. Gutierrez of Towson; and 17 nieces and nephews.

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