Elga Dzirkalis had the good fortune of being born into an artist’s family. Her father, Voldemars A.Z. Gutmanis, graduated from the Latvian Academy in Riga and had a successful career as a landscape artist and brilliant colorist. Her father’s studio was a great inspiration to the artist, and by the age of eleven she was already painting in oils, copying her father’s landscapes. As a child, Elga received scholarships to attend classes at the Minneapolis Art Institute, across the street from her father’s studio and Elga spent many hours of her youth viewing the institute’s collections.
Her formal training was in art education at the University of Minnesota under the direction of professor, Dr. Reid Hastie, then president of the National Art Education Association. The highlight of her undergraduate education was the semester abroad, Art Travel Course, taught by art history professor, Dr. Donald Torbert who guided the select group of fourteen students to Athens and the Greek Islands, Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam and London. This opportunity to study first hand the great artistic creations of Western Civilization had a profound effect on the artist and her decision to dedicate her life to fine art and fine arts education.
In 1967 Elga married Andrew Dzirkalis who at the time was a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Columbia University, and moved to New York City to study at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned her Masters of Fine Arts and Fine Arts Education. She studied painting and drawing under the direction of professor, Justin Schor, and became the teaching assistant to art education professor, Dr. Mildred Fairchild. With visiting art professor, Deli Sacilotto, she was introduced to Lithography and was inspired to create graphic art.
At the age of twenty-two she began teaching art at the high school level. She will never forget her mentor Ruth Brody, and talented students at Roosevelt High School, Yonkers, New York. In 1970 Elga and her husband moved to Memphis, Tennessee where their children were born, Anna in 1973 and Peter in 1976. In 1976, another move took the family to Bradford, PA. From 1977-2001, Elga enjoyed a successful career as a professor of Studio Art at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, developing nine art courses and teaching eight classes per week plus acting as art consultant for the university and organizing the university’s cultural series. She enjoyed working with and sharing her love of art with her many fine students.
In 1996 and in 2000, Elga received travel grants from the University of Pittsburgh to paint on location in Venice, Italy and to study at the Scuola di Internazionale di grafica in Venice. While teaching at the University she organized and participated in numerous art exhibitions locally and regionally. In 2001, after teaching for twenty-four years, the artist resigned her position at the university to devote more time to her art.
In 2007, the artist built a new studio in her home and started to paint full time, entering juried national and international exhibitions, winning entrance and awards. Her paintings can be found in the following public collections: Rutigliana Associates, Cleveland, Ohio, Hobbes House Corporation, CA, Olean Medical Group, Olean, NY, University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA, Mc Dowell Adjusting Co., San Diego, CA, Forrest Oil, Bradford, PA, PNC Bank, Bradford, PA; One hundred and fifty or more works in private collections in Australia, California, Florida, Germany, Latvia, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee.