By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bud Grant is 33 years removed from having to worry about a football season as a coach.

He is now 90 years old and he thought had done it all, until he got a call form a world-renowned artist who grew up here named Mark Balma, who wanted to paint a portrait of Bud. We were there.

We have long marveled at Bud Grant, the picture of a quiet, confident leader.

Mark Balma grew up in north Minneapolis, not an avid Vikings fan.

“My father was a great Vikings fan. I was not so much into sports, I was into the arts. But even as a child I would see the importance that coach Grant had on the team and the public,” Balma said.

He grew into a world-renowned artist. He has sat in the Oval Office with presidents, capturing the essence of them by sitting with them.

On this day, he is doing the same. Not in the oval office, but in Bud Grant’s office.

“It came out of the blue. I don’t know how this was all arrived at but I have to say he’s a pretty good artist,” Grant said.

Balma likes to go on location for all his work, including symbolism on ceilings and beyond.

“I prefer to meet with him, as I did all the presidents. It was either in the Oval Office, the private office, House of Lords where I did some of the portraits in London,” Balma said.

See it might be 40 years removed, but Grant’s stature is still revered. Just something about the demeanor.

“I always felt that a portrait of Bud was really important to do. Sometimes I do portraits just because I think they’re important to do,” Balma said. “I always felt that coach Grant was a statesman of the sports field.”

So they sit and talk, seemingly with little in common. Maybe not. See Grant sees and appreciates talent in any walk of life.

“I like football and I like sports, but I admire people who do things that I can’t do,” Grant said. “I cannot portrait paint, I cannot play violin and I cannot sing. But I admire people who do perform in entertainment because they’re things that I can’t do.”

This is different for Balma, and you have to ask: How is it different than say, to sitting with a president?

“It’s very similar. There’s a lot of activity outside the office but working here, we had great conversations. I had great conversations with coach Grant along with the presidents,” Balma said.

This is dfferent, and you sense both enjoy the process.

“It’s important to see the person active. It’s important to see them the way they normally talk or express themselves, because from that point I have a visual memory that takes snapshots,” Balma said.

When it’s complete, the two masters have signed a masterpiece, capturing the wisdom of a man for the ages. A job well done.

They are still deciding where it will be displayed, possibly at the Minnesota History Center.

Mike Max