You may remember seeing the intriguing man who once haunted downtown streets and various bus stops wearing a clown costume and construction hat, and carrying a toolbox. He became known to many as The Construction Clown, inspiring awe, confusion and mystery. Where was this guy going in this crazy getup? It wasn’t until 1999 when a social worker made his acquaintance that his true life’s work (and his name and lineage) were realized.
Of Native American ancestry, Raymond Thunder-Sky was the son of a Mohawk chief and his mother was a descendant of Austrian nobility. Thunder-Sky was developmentally disabled and in bad physical shape. Social worker Bill Ross slowly made his way into the man’s apartment after several attempts, and eventually discovered the massive collection of drawings Thunder-Sky had created and collected over the years.
In his toolbox, rather than hammer and screwdriver and nuts and bolts, were pens and markers and other tools Thunder-Sky used to make drawings of construction (and demolition) sites across the city. Ross was instrumental in helping the artist get the medical attention he needed and to encourage his art and exhibits. I recall seeing the artist at a showing of his work at Base Gallery, a few years back, where he sat quietly on a stool in the back room. In 2004, he passed away, but not without leaving thousands of drawings behind.
Thunder-Sky Inc. is a non-profit created to preserve Thunder-Sky’s legacy, as well as to promote the work of outsider art. This weekend, you have the chance to see the work of 30 folk art and other non-traditional artists in the parking lot of Building Value in Northside. Sponsored by the architectural reseller and by the childrens’ art workshop, Happen Inc., the show runs Saturday Sept 26 and Sunday Sept 27, 11-6 PM,. Building Value is located at 4040 Spring Grove Ave., in Northside.