Nick Bertoni, January 15, 1941 to June 21, 2017
Nicholas Charles Bertoni was born Jan. 15, 1941 in Ann Arbor Michigan. He was the eldest of the five children of Eugene and Rosemary (Kromer) Bertoni, who raised their children to value family, creativity, humor, ingenuity, nature and community/civic participation. He first found a love of boating on the Huron River, near his home. After high school, in 1960 Nick joined the U.S Navy Submarine Corps, becoming a highly skilled electronics technician serving until the beginning of the Vietnam War. Upon his release he became a lifelong peace and human rights activist and sailor.
Nick was one of a kind: artist, tinker, innovator, teacher, sound recordist, video producer and teacher and inventor. He lived a large and vivid life both in Michigan and California. After the Navy, he returned to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan’s School of Architecture and Design at a time of great fertility. There he met many of his most important mentors, Aare Lahti, George Manupelli, Milton Cohen, Joe Wehr and family, as well as designer Aleksis Lahti, sculptor Doug Hollis, and artist/activists Pat Olezko and Buster Simpson.
His interests were eclectic, his skills ran the gamut from being technical director of “the Once Group” in Ann Arbor, to building the studios of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills college for Robert Ashley. He moved to California to record sound for Robert Altman and settled in Berkley with Doug Hollis and food writer, Ruth Richl who formed a collective household of writers, artists, video pioneers and experimental musicians. At Mills he collaborated with such artists as John Cage, Maggie Payne and Pauline Oliveras.
Bertoni was a pioneer of the maker movement promoting the idea of tinkering as a learning method, first at the shop at the S.F. Exploratorium Museum, where he was manager of the Artist in Residence Program, and then in his own Tinkers Workshop in Berkeley where electronics, woodworking, metal crafts and inventing of all kinds flourished. For several years he recycled tons of bicycles per week at the shop, teaching hundreds of Berkeley youth to build and repair bikes in exchange for a bike of one’s own
He was married for 30 years to documentary filmmaker, Judith Ehrlich. His son, Aleksis Bertoni is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Environmental Design and is a student in Architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. His daughter, Samantha Earl graduated in Art History from Columbia and earned an MA in City Planning from MIT. She works at the World Heritage Fund and is mother of two children. Nick is survived by his sisters, Christina, of Lincoln, R.I., a retired dean of Rhode Island School of Design, Camilla Luengas of Omak Washington, and his brother Matthew Bertoni of Ann Arbor, as well as a large extended family.