Former ArtPrize sculpture lands in downtown Farmington for the Grand Raven Festival

Downtown Farmington is breathing new life into the Old Tired Crow. And with the sculpture coming in at 6-feet-tall and weighing 700 lbs., that’s quite a feat.

The sculpture, created from recycled materials, was obtained for the Grand Raven Festival, the month-long “spooky but playful” festival, now in its second year. It was installed on Grand River Avenue near TCF Bank earlier this month.

[Read more about downtown Farmington’s Edgar Allen Poe-inspired festival on Metromode.]

The artist Nick Jakubiak of Battle Creek.The Old Tired Crow is the work of Nick Jakubiak, an artist based in Battle Creek. The sculpture gets its name, in part, from its materials: Jakubiak sculpted the crow out of used and abandoned automobile and bicycle tires. It’s substructure is made of repurposed 55-gallon metal drums.

Jakubiak originally built the Old Tired Crow in 2012 for that year’s ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids. While he’s since lost count of how many tires it took to construct the Old Tired Crow, Jakubiak does recall how much work it took.

“Collecting the tires wasn’t the hard part. People are always trying to get rid of old tires,” Jakubiak says. “The crow was difficult because most of the tires I used are steel-belted tires, and those were a real pain to cut up [into the feathers]. It wasn’t until near the end of construction where I started using those mini-donut spare tires, which don’t have steel belts and are much easier to cut.

“I learned a lot along the way.”

Jakubiak even learned how to weld while sculpting the crow, buying the equipment and teaching himself welding techniques to create its sub-sculpture. That was the fun part, he says.

“I enjoy learning new things. The fun part for me is the challenge. It’s always about the puzzle, figuring out how to actually do it.”

One of Jakubiak’s wood carvings. Photo courtesy of the artist.
The Old Tired Crow was part of ArtPrize 2012 and it’s there where Sean Murphy, a volunteer on the Grand Raven committee, first saw the sculpture. He remembered it all these years later and sparked the conversations that led to its purchase.

“I was a little surprised that someone remembered it. It’s been in storage for years,” Jakubiak says. Although modest, his Old Tired Crow sculpture proved a popular attraction at that year’s ArtPrize event. Jakubiak says that both the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! organization and a local zoo approached him about purchasing the sculpture, though neither could agree on a price. So in his storage facility it sat, until downtown Farmington came calling nearly 10 years later.

“It’s not sad for me to see it go. For me, the enjoyment I get out of this is figuring out the puzzle, figuring out how to do something,” Jakubiak says. “It’s nice to see it find a good home. People can enjoy it now and that means a lot more; I can’t enjoy it the way that others can.”

For downtown Farmington, the acquisition of the Old Tired Crow is another feather in their public art cap.

That’s especially true when it comes to the Grand Raven Festival, which has been putting an even bigger emphasis on Raven-themed public art. Local artist Leila Mullison created a series of stop-motion animation videos featuring her “Arthur the Raven” puppet cavorting around downtown Farmington. Also planned are interactive Raven Wings painted on the side of SIPP, the work of Mary Lou Stropoli, and a mural on the east wall of KickstART, the work of Pam Alexander.

A contest to rename the Old Tired Crow is currently underway and suggestions can be submitted via the Downtown Farmington Facebook page.

A recent cityscape painting from Nick Jakubiak. “One of my favorite artists is Edward Hopper,” he says. (Photo: Nick Jakubiak)
As for Jakubiak himself, the professional artist is happy to have his sculpture become a piece of public art. A native of the Detroit area, Jakubiak spent part of his career as a commercial artist for local advertising agencies and book publishers, eventually becoming a professional artist in his own right. He spent several years in New York City before moving to Battle Creek to take care of an elderly parent. He hasn’t entered ArtPrize in a while, he says, but still pursues art in a variety of disciplines, including oil painting and wood carving.

“I’m very pro-public art. I lived in Brooklyn for a few years and knew numerous street artists that did fantastic graffiti work. A lot of that stuff is more sincere and easier to appreciate than what you can find in an art gallery,” Jakubiak says.

“Now that I have that crow out of the way, maybe I can do another big sculpture.”

For those interested in his work, Nick Jakubiak can be contacted via Facebook or by calling (347) 612-0473.
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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.