Jacques Terzian (In memoriam)

JACQUES TERZIAN was born in 1921 in Fresno, California where he was raised, along with his brothers and sisters, the son of Armenian immigrants who’d fled during massacres by the Ottoman Turks. He died in San Francisco in August 2016.

Tribute by Scott Madison, Shipyard Trust for the Arts:

“The shipyard arts community has lost the person whose inspiration, vision and love for the arts and artists brought it into being. The person who was, for more than two decades, its animated and animating spirit. The person who, along with family members, spent countless hours hammering and nailing, tearing down and putting up, crawling on, under and around hundreds of thousands of square feet of forlorn, abandoned buildings, giving them new life as creative spaces for hundreds of us artists and small businesses. The person who, time and again, helped so many of us realize our dreams, and almost as often freely offered advice about how you ought to do that, usually without being asked. The person who was as quick to make a decision or pronounce a verdict as to change his mind or reverse himself moments later. The person who nurtured the creative spirit of so many people and who was, himself, incredibly creative; the author of countless beautiful, whimsical, thought provoking artworks that were always surprisingly affordable, especially after a bit of haggling over the price. Jacques Terzian was truly one of a kind. He left the world a better place for having been in it. Perhaps a good wish for a man who could rarely sit still for more than a few minutes – may he be restless in peace.”

Obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 2016

(requires Chronicle subscription). Reprinted August 18 in ArtForum.com


As a very young man, Jacques learned to weld at the Navy yard in Richmond CA, and transferred to the Hunters Point Shipyard to help repair destroyers, cruisers and submarines that had been damaged at Pearl Harbor. He then enlisted in the U.S. Air force and was trained and served as a bombardier navigator. After the war, the G.I. Bill gave him the opportunity to attend college, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley and pursuing graduate studies at Parsons School of Design in New York City. In 1951 he returned to the Bay Area to work as an interior designer on both residential and commercial projects.


Beginning in 1974, Jacques established “Patterns Ltd.” which designed, fabricated and installed a broad range of ‘found object’ industrial detritus-based art, from custom furniture to large-scale sculpture. His installations appear throughout the United States including numerous commercial sites and private collections in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Dallas, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

Jacques’ vision saw the possibility of transforming several of the neglected buildings at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard into affordable workspaces, and in 1983 a handful of artists began renovating and renting their studios at the Shipyard. With co-developers Paula Terzian and David Terzian (daughter and son), the Point was soon home to 300 visual artists, musicians and writers.

Jacques’ life revolved around art and opera. Beginning in 1991 he explored multiple art media, focusing on welded found-metal sculpture and wood tool and dye pattern-based wall sculpture. He exhibited annually as a participant in the San Francisco Open Studios.

Building: Islais Creek - Studio: 306
Phone: 415-822-9675
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