Baliker is looking to donate her miniature houses to a school, learning center or hospital where children can interact with them and learn from their messages.
Ormond Beach artist Joan Baliker turned 90 this year. But the sculptor, painter, author and interfaith minister isn’t slowing down by any means.
“It’s been quite a beautiful journey,” she says. “And every day I ask, how can I serve, what would be helpful to everyone? And then I get all these ideas and that’s why I’ve been so busy because they just keep popping up. ‘You should do this book. You should do this.’"
Baliker has written children’s books about the five-level dollhouse she and her husband Jim built years ago which she’s populated with figurines of children of different cultures and races and placed symbols denoting love and choice and cleansing among all the tiny furniture and artwork.
“It’s a foster home where everyone’s living together peacefully,” she says.
Recently she acquired a new dollhouse that she decided to convert into a fire station to appeal to boys.
“I figured we’ll get them on the hook too,” she says.
The five-tiered house, the subject of her picture books, “The Mysterious Mystical House,” and “It’s Weird, Very Weird,” has been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Sciences and the Ormond Beach Regional Library.
Now she wants to donate both miniature houses to a school or learning center or hospital where children can interact with them and learn from their messages.
“My thought is if you can help children from an early age realize that we can be from different cultures and religions and live together peacefully, we won’t have this chaos that we’re having now, where everybody is against everybody,” she says.
Her bronze sculptures run along a similar theme. “Peace” is a life-sized sculpture of a woman -- actually a young Joan -- meditating.
“The Peace Seekers” reprises the meditating woman surrounded by advocates of peace representing all the major religions: Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu; Martin Luther King, a Christian; an Islamic whirling dervish; a Tibetan Buddhist; a rabbi blowing a shofar; and an American Indian “calling for a vision.”
Baliker studied fashion illustration and design at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, becoming an interior decorator in 1950 and then traveling the world as a military officer’s wife.
After divorcing her first husband, she married Jim. They’ve been married 60 years “and it’s been magical; we’re still dancing,” she says.
She became an interfaith minister at age 70. That same year she had her first show exhibiting her bronze sculptures. Her son, Paul Baliker, a world-renowned driftwood sculptor and owner of the Baliker Gallery in the Hammock, got her sculpting career started when he handed her some clay and said, “See what you can do with this.”
Joan raised four boys. She always wanted a girl so she could build and decorate a dollhouse with her, because playing with a dollhouse with her sister was a fond memory of her own childhood. Finally, when she had a granddaughter, that dream became reality.
“Well, she really wasn’t into dollhouses,” Joan admits. “But I went from there.”
The dollhouse, like her bronze sculpture, became a way to blend her spirituality and her art. The five-level dollhouse, originally had four levels. She added a top level for a wizard.
“The top one is where you go for truth,” she says. “The wizard is the wisest part of yourself.”
Like Joan, Jim, 87, is not one for retirement. He and their son David reopened Bali Golf Company, a club-repair business, within the past year after selling a similar business nearly 30 years ago.
The shop is more than a business. It’s a place where golfers hang out and exchange stories.
“I got to know some of the guys,” Joan says. “During the pandemic it was good for me to be able to go out there. So I was telling this one gentleman what I was doing with the dollhouse, because he has a daughter. And that’s when he said, ‘I’ve got a dollhouse.’ It was a beautiful dollhouse. And I thought I was finished doing dollhouses.”
Now it’s become the “Seaside Fire Station.”
And like the five-level dollhouse, it’s looking for a new home.