German Village Gazette

GartenMarkt, Jazz and Juleps

Blind artist's vision extends to local scrap metal sites

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Rick Crooks' interest in art started innocently enough.

He made his mother a metal sculpture -- a Springer spaniel -- out of metal coil springs from a car.

Since that day 12 years ago, he has made 1,088 pieces of folk art.

"It's all recycled material," said the owner of Old Man from the Mountain.

Crooks, 55, will be among 20 vendors at the German Village GartenMarkt, slated for 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Meeting Haus, 588 S. Third St. It is free and open to the public.

He's made cats from horseshoes, bugs out of sparkplugs and a camel using a semi-tractor trailer's gas tank for the body.

Crooks recently made a bird from a fire extinguisher and put a showerhead in its beak so customers could use it as a makeshift beach shower.

What makes his story more intriguing is that Crooks is blind. A friend who was playing with a handgun shot Crooks, then 16, in the head, causing him to lose sight.

Crooks said he never considered it a hindrance and finished high school and went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Ohio University.

Crooks, who lives in Crooksville, Ohio, said he conceives his pieces and often hires friend Charles Rose, who also will be at the GartenMarkt, to do the welding.

"He's amazing. He's an inspiration," said Rose, owner of Lean on Me.

Rose, meanwhile, will bring his wood-carved birdhouses, birdfeeders, whistles, animals and other items to the show.

A sheet-metal worker by trade, Rose, also of Crooksville, seriously got into woodcarving 18 months ago to help distract him from chronic back pain.

He drove Crooks to several art-and-crafts festivals when Crooks suggested he try to sell some of his woodwork for gas money.

Surprisingly, he said, it sold, so he continued to hone his craft, using discarded slab wood to make the merchandise.

Rose, 48, has much praise for Crooks.

"He's a worker," Rose said. "He never sets still."

The GartenMarkt will be preceded by Jazz and Juleps, to be held 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 10, also at the Meeting Haus.

It gives patrons an advance opportunity to purchase items the following day.

The event will be marked with food, mint juleps and other beverages, and live entertainment.

Tickets, $30 each, are available at www.germanvillagegartenclub.com.

Jazz and Juleps and the GartenMarkt are the largest annual fundraisers for the German Village Garten Club.

The club maintains Frank Fetch Park, hosts a summer concert series in the park, holds education seminars and takes care of 23 planters along South High Street.

Naturally, plants and flowers will be prominently featured this year at the market.

A half dozen plant vendors, who will bring a variety of items, including connoisseur flowers, annuals and perennials for any kind of setting, succulent plants, herbs and hanging baskets.

In addition, there will be a multitude arts and crafts, jewelry, garden lamps, eccentric garden accents and a limited amount of honey collected from a beehive in Frank Fetch Park.

Food and beverages also will be offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Customers can sup on bratwurst, hotdogs and chicken breasts. Garten Club members will provide home-baked goods, which will be on sale throughout the day.

"We're so excited about our vendor lineup," said Nancy Little, vendor coordinator for the market.

"Up to half of the vendors are new this year and will be have exciting new products, plants and artistic endeavors."

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