William Zacha Biography

William Zacha




Painter, printmaker, sculptor, and ceramicist William "Bill" Zacha was born in Garland, Texas, in 1920. While attending the University of California at Berkeley to stusy architecture, he enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II. He served as a writer and performer for the troops. He followed his time in the war with unsuccessful attempts at priesthood and acting. After the war he relocated to Washington D.C. continue his studies at George Washington University, though by now he had switched his major from Architecture to Fine Arts. While there he also took up a position at the Corcoran Gallery. After graduation, he traveled to Rome to study at Studio Hinna; he was offered a show of these Italian works in Houston, Texas, in 1953. It was at this exhibition that he met his future wide, fashion designer Jeannie Malone. 

Bill relocated once more to San Francisco to earn his teaching credentials at San Francisco State University; simultaneously, he developed an arts program for the United States Army at the Presidio. In 1957, Bill and Jeannie Zacha, now married and with a daughter, moved north to Mendocino. While working as a high school teacher he opened Zacha's Bay Window Gallery, which remained in operation for several decades. Not long after settling into Mendocino, Bill learned of the sale of the former Preston estate, once home to a sprawling mansion that served as a location for the 1955 film East of Eden. It had burned down just one year after filming ended and the land was now for sale; before it could be turned into a intended trailer park, the Zachas purchased the land and in 1959 opened the Mendocino Art Center on the site. It continues to serve as a hub for artists all over the world. 

In 1964 Bill traveled to Japan, where he met master printmaker Toshi Yoshida. A fortuitous meeting, Yoshida would eventually guest-teach printmaking techniques at the art center, inspiring him to found one such center in Miasa, Japan. The friendship formed between the two artists led to the formal designation of "sister cities" between the two towns in 1980. 

Bill Zacha would become a force in the art and architecture scene of Mendocino, designing, building, and restoring several structures that are now landmarks of the town. Among these are the Art Center, the Bay Window Gallery, the studio and house of artist Dorr Bothwell, the water tower at Albion and Kasten streets, and a variety of private houses. He is often credited with reviving the town whose economic downturn from a failing lumber business nearly made it a ghost town by the 1950s. The Zachas became world travelers, especially frequenting Japan and Italy. His own frequent visits to Tokaido led to the publication of his illustrated book, Tokaido Journey, in 1985.

William Zacha died at a hospital in Fort Bragg, just north of Mendocino, on March 18, 1998.