DOWNTOWN ON DISPLAY
RED OAK — Jim Hoskinson won’t claim it’s his idea, but he also can’t say for sure it wasn’t.
Regardless, at some point, Hoskinson was sitting inside the recently-constructed Montgomery County History Center, and noticed a big white space around all four sides of the main lobby, extending to the ceiling.
“I thought it looked like the perfect canvas,” Hoskinson said.
Nearly two years later, that white space is now filled with a multi-dimensional replication of Red Oak’s downtown square, and will be formally unveiled at an open house Saturday.
“The idea came through discussions and the need to do something with the wall space,” Hoskinson said. “We thought it would be a perfect fit with the four sides of the square and the four sides of the room.”
After the History Center received a grant from the Iowa West Foundation in October 2008, Hoskinson went to work.
Using a vast collection of photographs from the center and the Red Oak Public Library, Hoskinson chose four years to depict: 1870, 1896, 1917 and 1937.
He also took several photos of the buildings as they currently exist, and started working on creating cut-outs from quarter-inch masonite wood boards. He used pine boards and canvas for the dimensional trim work and awnings.
Each building is comprised of at least two separate pieces of masonite, which Hoskinson said made them easier to handle during the painting process.
With each building containing separate pieces, it allow for flexibility in terms of display as well.
“If you wanted to, you could rearrange downtown,” Hoskinson said. “Or if you wanted, you could get yourself a new neighbor.”
A more likely scenario though would be removing a specific building to display alongside other artifacts from the business.
For example, a descendant of downtown hardware store owner George Johnson recently donated a saw with the store’s name engraved on it. Coincidentally, Hoskinson was painting the Johnson Hardware building the same day the saw was brought by the center.
“That was a little strange, needless to say,” Hoskinson recalls.
A self-taught artist, Hoskinson moved to Red Oak along with his wife Terri from Colorado in 2006, so he could focus on the profession full-time.
Hoskinson painted the Red Oak Fire Station painting, displayed at the Firehouse Restaurant, and several items for private collections as well. However, he has never tackled a project of this magnitude before.
“It was the proverbial eating of the elephant,” Hoskinson said. “You do it one bite at a time.”
Hoskinson admits he has no idea how many hours he invested in the project.
“When I paint, I can go into the studio for two hours, and end up spending six and not even know it until after I came out,” Hoskinson said. “It would be a rare day though when I didn’t work on it, seven days a week.”
Hoskinson wasn’t alone in the studios as three Red Oak students, Jordan Matson, Mary Honeyman and Kyle Funderburk volunteered to help.
The result of all that work will be on display at an Open House Saturday at the history center from 1-3 p.m.
As for his Hoskinson, he has a few private works lined up, but he believes his time is going to be consumed at least in the short-term elsewhere.
“She (Terri) said I won’t believe the honey-do list and how its grown,” he said. “So I’m sure I won’t be lacking for things to do.”