Altruistic local artist in there only for the good
by Andrew Alonzo | [email protected]
As we head towards Alan Jack’s house, we can’t help but notice a large, howling metallic coyote with a big red nose laying on the lawn. It’s an eye-catching piece of art, especially at night when the nearby light casts a fierce silhouette over the house.
The piece has been howling proudly in front of the Occidental Drive home since 2008.
The coyote has sentimental value to Jack as it is the first of many original works he began creating after he began metal carving in 2008.
He’s kind of a local celebrity. When asked “Tell me about yourself,” he opened a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the Rotary Club Claremont that detailed his, pardon the pun, jack-of-all-trades leanings.
He worked in sales for many years at GE Medical Systems, selling vascular imaging systems and equipment to hospitals. Locally, he lent his voice to the Claremont Presbyterian Choir for 36 years and was a volunteer Claremont police officer for a time before retiring in 2006.
One thing each of his jobs had in common was that Jack always found himself helping people, a trait he inherited from his mother, Joann. She would handcraft little chocolate Easter eggs and, along with young Jack, deliver them around the neighborhood out of sheer kindness. She asked for no reward or recognition.
“She taught me to be a giver, not a taker,” Jack said. “She never said those words. I learned by doing.”
In 2006, Jack and his wife Beverly took a spontaneous trip to Los Olivos, California, near Solvang. There they came across a small garden shop with metal garden work all around. This planted an idea that she would later whisper to Jack.
Worried about his ADHD and how he might pass the time during his retirement, she suggested Jack take up metal art to avoid boredom. He did so and thus began a new chapter of service for him.
He picked it up quickly and forged a bond with the craft. “I’ve always been good with my hands,” he says.
He honed his skills throughout 2008 and 2009, creating two little metal squirrels and a mother quail.
In 2010, we were talking about his charming metal works of art. He created and donated another squirrel to Claremont afterschool programs for a drawing and raffle. This was the first time Jack had donated a coin to raise money for a great cause. It wouldn’t be the last.
Soon he was getting calls from other nonprofits offering similar deals, and it only grew from there.
Jack’s finished pieces can fetch over $1,000. Whether they’re going to raise money for a non-profit organization or as gifts for friends, he seems perfectly content.
In 2013, Jack created his ninth piece, a kiwi bird for Analeise Ferguson, the couple’s tour guide during a 20-day trip to New Zealand. After making this piece, he realized that his hobby was turning into a charitable passion project that he couldn’t put out.
All of Jack’s 82 pieces of metal art to date have been created in his makeshift studio in Claremont – his two-car garage. About 17 coins went to benefit charities including the California Botanic Garden, CLASP, Habitat for Humanity and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Jack sources most of his materials from local businesses and since 2008 has used a Bosch JS260 portable saw to shape his metal creations. He cuts each from a piece of sheet metal and carves each wooden support by hand.
Between the first sketch and the final assembly, it takes him about six months to complete a piece. He makes between four and six a year.
He has a waiting list of future projects, but he stressed that he is not looking for commercial gain or recognition.
He tells organizations when they receive the gifts, “I know you’re going to show this to people at your charity and people will want to order two or three. I can not do that. I won’t because it now puts pressure on me to do a certain number per month and I’m not set up to do that.
Jack invites charities to contact him via email at [email protected] to request handcrafted artwork for an upcoming auction. He also works on personalized gifts for friends and family, but only on his terms.
And if Jack asks you about your favorite animal, that’s a strong indication that he’s considering giving you a piece of metal art, for free and from the goodness of his heart, just like mom used to.