New Directions: Art in COVID-19 & Beyond – Part 1 – Commissioned Work
by Christina Di Stefano, Executive Director, Tioga Arts Council (TAC)
Vintage Momentum is the title of a commissioned sculpture by Tim Jackson in the backyard of the Belva Lockwood Inn in Owego, New York. On Saturday, July 19, to commemorate its completion, Jackson, Ike and Julie Lovelass, owners of the Belva Lockwood Inn, and Tioga Arts Council members held a small, socially-distanced “plating ceremony.” Under the hot July sun, supporters applauded Jackson as he added his final flourish to the piece: a plate made from a welded wrench, inscribed “Vintage Momentum, Tim Jackson, 2020.”
Vintage Momentum is a grant sight. Elegant, asymmetrical, and modern in its design, Vintage Momentum stands over six feet tall at its highest point and is a series of vintage cascading wheels. The sculpture consists of 28 (mostly) rusted, cast-iron wheels of different sizes – including several blue wheels – stretching 38 feet across the west end of the yard.
According to Julie Lovelass, she reached out to Jackson about one year ago to create a large-scale sculpture out of vintage wheels. “I like to incorporate a lot of different textures into a space…I told Tim what our vision was and he put it together,” she said. “I trusted that.” Procuring the wheels was a yearlong process. Wheels were donated from all over. One neighbor rolled a wheel down the street when delivering it directly to the Belva Lockwood Inn.
In March at the beginning of quarantine, Jackson began to work on the design while completing online classes. “It was a nice push to get going again. I was burnt out from finishing school online, so this was a great way to get back into my creative process,” Jackson said. This project, wonderful in its own right, is also a small example of quarantine-related ideas being discussed in arts circles.
Arts-organizations and cultural institutions are trying to re-envision the arts, to identify ways for artists and creative workers to weather the pandemic, and to forge a new way forward. Commissioned artwork, both private and public, is one approach being advocated for by agencies like Americans for the Arts – Arts Action Fund, whose advocacy agenda is titled “2020 Party Platform: Arts and Humanities Getting America’s Creative Workers Working.” Like the title of Jackson’s piece, experts are looking to the past in order to find a way forward.
One project that provides a precedent for current efforts to help artists weather difficult economic times is the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project, which was the first major attempt at government patronage of the visual arts in the United States. It employed more than 5,000 artists at its peak in 1936, produced 2,566 murals, more than 100,000 easel paintings, about 17,700 sculptures, nearly 300,000 fine prints, according to https://www.britannica.com/topic/WPA-Federal-Art-Project. Like the WPA program, art to be a vehicle for innovation, creativity, and economic development during a time of national crisis.
In this case, Jackson and the Lovelasses are ahead of the curve. This commission financially supported Jackson, whose passion is sculpture, while creating a unique work that, in many ways, represents the spirit of the Belva Lockwood Inn itself.
This has been a difficult time, Jackson admitted. This sculpture “was my way of saying ‘we’re going to get through this and we have to keep pushing forward.’”
To learn more about the Belva Lockwood Inn, go to www.belvalockwoodinn.com. To learn more about his work, to see his portfolio, and to donate vintage metal tools, wheels, and other implements, go to www.timjacksondesigns.com.