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Metal sculptor finds his way back home to Mills

Tim Cassidy is a New York Mills High School graduate who moved to the Twin Cities to pursue an art degree. While there he learned how to weld. He has since returned to NY Mills with his family and creates large metal sculptures.

Tim Cassidy greeted me in a gray Life is Good T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Not all who wander are lost." He led me to a picnic table in behind the white farmhouse where he, his wife Heather, and his two kids, Nolan and Edan, live. Like many others in the area, the farmstead includes a chicken coop full of chickens and a large garden - Heather is a horticulturist by training - but this farmstead is made distinctive by the large metal sculptures that line the backyard.

Tim Cassidy is a sculptor who works in reclaimed metal. If you've been in New York Mills anytime over the last three years, you are likely to have seen one of his sculptures. "Structure MM Download," a red, yellow, and orange rocket-shaped monolith stands between the NYM Regional Cultural Center and the library. Another sculpture from the Structure MM series stands across in the courtyard of Designs by Tes, and a third sits in the NYM Sculpture Park off of Highway 10.

Tim is a hometown boy who went to New York Mills High School, then left for the Twin Cities. He studied illustration at the St. Paul College of Visual Arts and found his love for metal in a sculpture class where another student taught him how to weld. For his senior thesis in illustration, he chose to sculpt an aluminum, bronze, and iron bison carcass on a hide-shaped railroad track base which he called "Ultimate Violation." This piece explored Tim's fascination with and sadness about the killing off of the bison herds, the resulting loss of food for the local Native Americans, and the Native Americans' subsequent relocation to reservations. Creating "Ultimate Violation" allowed Tim to resolve his feelings about the history of the land. With Tim's mother's help, the piece became part of the collection of the National Bison Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota.

Tim's parents, Don and Karen Cassidy, still live in New York Mills. After 15 years in the Cities, Tim returned for one of his regular family visits and noticed a job ad in the New York Mills Herald seeking a welder. Tim and Heather wanted to raise their two young boys in a small town atmosphere, and they had been looking for a way to move out of the Cities for some time. Tim called up the company in the ad, extended his visit by one day for an interview, and got the job. Within three months Tim and Heather sold their home in the Cities and purchased a farm just out of New York Mills. Three years later, Tim is living his dream. He is surrounded by trees and land and has the space he needs to do his large-scale artistic work. When asked how he likes being an artist in the New York Mills area, Tim answers: "I love it. This area feels like home to me."

One of the most unique parts of the Cassidy farm is the converted barn that has become Tim's studio. The space is heated by a double barrel wood stove made from two 55-gallon drums. The concrete floor shaped to channel manure exposes the building's original purpose. The last owner of the farm, John Minderman, replaced the barn's old wooden siding with aluminum and transformed the barn into a shop. Tim has further altered the space so that one side serves as the kind of woodshop owned by most handy men, while the other half is filled with large pieces of scrap metal, shelves of old tools, and large metal-working machinery. Tim explains that he likes to be able to see the metal in his collection, so countless tools and metal bits are lined up neatly across the counters that run in two levels across half the length of the building. Beyond the counters are wall hooks restraining long sections of pipe, channel, tubing, and roundstock. Behind the barn are the pieces too large to store inside. To transform the scraps into art, Tim uses a Mig welder with a torch, a forge, grinders, saws, and a drill press.

Tim accumulated his mass of raw material over many years. The majority of his raw materials come from old farm machinery which Tim collects and then disassembles. He is always looking for metal. If people have scrap metal on their property that is of no use to them, Tim will be happy to come by and take it off their hands.

Tim's work has received awards and recognition around the region. His piece "Dimetromorph" recently won the 3-dimensional art award at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center's Regional Art show. Last week, "Dimetromorph" left the Cultural Center to go to Bemidji where it will be on display for the next year as part of Bemidji's downtown Artwalk.

Though Tim's sculptures may be costly to own for individuals, he has recently begun to offer a more affordable way to enjoy his sculpture. Sculpture-lovers can choose to rent one of Tim's sculptures on an annual basis.

"One part of having sculpture is watching it change through the seasons," says Tim.

And an annual rental is an affordable way for Tim's work to grace local homes. If you are interested in sculpture rental or if you have old machinery or scrap metal that is being wasted in your yard, Tim is always happy to talk with you. You can contact Tim at 385-2229.

Though Tim Cassidy may have wandered away from New York Mills for a while, this artistic wanderer has finally found his way home.