Class to see work of famous homeless artist

Winslow, Ark., has a hidden treasure, and one class plans to visit it.

Jonathan Himes has assigned his Honors Composition class a field trip to the small town in the Ozark Mountains for the past several years to provide his students the opportunity to study and write about the customs of the residents there. This year, the students will travel to Winslow to study the acclaimed art of Tim West, a homeless man who lived for a number of years in Winslow before passing away at the age of 75 in April of last year.

West remained a recluse in the backwoods of Arkansas for most of his life, but he was renowned for his art and sculpture, which he created out of segments of scrap metal, concrete and other items he could find.

“His work is almost eerie,” Himes said. “[West] would find pieces of concrete, wire and old beat up computers. You’d be driving along down the road and suddenly see these scrap materials made into really interesting post-modern pieces of sculpture on the side of the road.”

West’s art has been showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, the Louvre in Paris and a number of other internationally renowned art museums.

“This is an example of the kind of culture you don’t expect when you think of the Ozarks,” Himes said, which is precisely why he assigns his students this project almost every year.

The students are to interview locals, make observations and document their observations of the small community. Himes said that the point of this project is to make students more aware of the culture that constantly surrounds them.

“You can live in a place all your life and really not know its heritage,” Himes said. “This project is designed to stimulate curiosity about the world immediately around you. We often go abroad, and that is very important, but it’s so easy to miss the nuances of the culture around you.”

West’s unique art and way of life speaks to the rich culture that Himes’ students will be able to experience when they visit Winslow in the upcoming weeks.