EL PASO, Texas — If you’re driving by 305 County Line in Chaparral, New Mexico, in the next few days, be ready to hit the brakes.

The El Paso Times reports Tim Downing and the craftsmen at Industrial Stainless International have fabricated “Run,” a traffic-stopping $450,000 sculpture by artists Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead of Tucson, Arizona.

The artwork depicting five female figures running will soon be on display at the new $48 million Texas Tech University Sports Performance Center in Lubbock.

But for now, the sculpture made of 240 separate metal layers held together by 12,000 welded pins is undergoing its finishing touches outside the company’s building.

“We had to kind of figure out some way to put it together, so we went ahead and made this frame to encapsulate it,” Downing explained during a recent visit. Before it is put on display at the university, the frame will be cut away and the art will be placed on a plinth, or heavy base that will support it.

The sculpture almost led to at least one crash, Downing said, explaining that a driver had stopped on the road to look at it, and another driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid the first car.

According to the artists’ proposal, the 12-foot tall work will stand on a 6-foot tall plinth so that the sculpture will stand a total of 18 feet in the air.

Work on the project began May 15 and should be completed by mid-August, Downing said.

In an email, artist Donovan said the cost includes labor-intensive stainless steel fabrication; a curved, concrete plinth that will be 6 feet tall and 5-by-25 feet wide; state of the art lighting in red for Texas Tech; and hundreds of hours of design time for 3-D rendering and division into planes and assigned holes for laser cutting.

Donovan said he looks forward to working with Downing and his crew in the future.

“Absolutely! Tim Downing and the crew of Industrial Steel International are simply the best. Tim is brilliant and because of current workload (we have five other commissions concurrently) we could not fabricate this piece ourselves. We don’t know of anyone else that we would trust with a project of this scale and complexity. They also have a passion for the work — and it shows … We couldn’t be happier.”

Donovan and Olmstead also designed the “Pasajeros” sculpture at the Sun Metro Transit Operations Center in East Central El Paso.

“We are currently working on sculpture for the Love Field Airport in Dallas,” Donovan added.

Downing recently recounted his history “building up” to where he is today, starting as a janitor in his teens, learning to weld, being hired as a foreman at National Restaurant Supply at 23, then starting his own company seven years later.

“It was a good education,” he said.

A Sept. 3, 2001, report on Labor Day in the El Paso Times recognized Downing’s ambition: “So at the age of 30, with $800 in the bank, two babies, a mortgage, a pickup with 300,000 miles on it and a $2.50 suit from Goodwill, he started his own company.”

Downing doesn’t see anything remarkable about his story.

“Isn’t everybody supposed to do that? It’s America,” he said.

Downing, who went to Andress High School, and his wife of 31 years, Monica, of Hanks, who are both nearing 60, lead a company that earns in the seven figures annually, Monica Downing said.

Tim Downing said his first art project was the metal agave plants for a renovation at El Paso International Airport.

Two impressive metal agaves remain at his building because he felt they didn’t meet the high standards he sets for the company’s work.

Of the company’s initial forays into art production, he said, “I call that dabbling in artwork because we grew on commercial food service equipment, military base kitchens, things like that,” he said.

Now, the company’s projects are evenly divided between art and food service, he said.

And Downing is as proud of the company’s food service work as he is of the art it helps produce, showing off sinks it has produced for a Mexican food chain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We’re going on 26 years,” he said.

He said some members of the team have been working together nearly 40 years, including stints at other companies, with most having worked together 20 years or longer.

“They really became craftsmen and they appreciated the challenge,” he said.

While the El Pasoan said he doesn’t like to drive, he explained the taxes in El Paso drove him to set up shop in Chaparral.

“We’re very content here. You can’t get another crew. These guys pull it together. They make it happen,” he said.

“How do you get that lucky as an employer?”

He said everyone at the company is there for each other during good times and bad, helping each other through the struggles of life that arise, as well as celebrating the joys and successes that also come along.

Downing also praised the residents of Chaparral as hardworking, honest people.

Plus, being out in the country gives him “room to think,” he said.

The company’s work with art can be seen nationwide.

In addition to work at the El Paso airport, the company also fabricated the sculptures around the Abraham Chavez Theatre at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center Downtown.

Industrial Steel also does occasional metalwork on high-end homes in the Borderland, he said.

“We’ve got projects from San Francisco, Cupertino, West Palm Beach, Florida, Michigan State University,” Downing said, adding that it requires building up relationships with artists who trust the company to produce the work.

He said the next local project for the company will be at Sun Metro’s Northgate Transfer Station, where the company will build a blue spire designed by an artist from North Carolina.

The couple still are finding new enterprises.

Monica Downing says the company’s latest venture is selling a machine they patented that can cook 1,200 tamales in an hour and 45 minutes.

She said it’s made her a little upset with her husband, though, explaining she wants a floor model to show potential buyers.

However, every time the company finishes a new tamale cooker, “he sells it,” she said, laughing.


Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the El Paso Times