Altruistic local artist in it only for the good

by Andrew Alonzo |

When walking up to the home of Alan Jack, one can’t help but notice a large howling metal coyote with a big red nose poised on the front lawn. It’s an eye-catching work of art, especially at night when the nearby light casts a fierce silhouette on the house.

The piece has been howling proudly in front of the Occidental Drive home since 2008.

The coyote holds sentimental value to Jack as it’s the first of many original works he began creating after taking up metal sculpture in 2008.

He is sort of a local celebrity. When asked, “Tell me about yourself,” he opened a PowerPoint presentation prepared for the Rotary Club Claremont that detailed his, pardon the pun, jack-of-all-trades proclivities.

He worked in the sales industry for many years with GE Medical Systems, selling vascular imaging systems and equipment to hospitals. Locally, he’s lent his voice to the Claremont Presbyterian Choir for 36 years and was a volunteer Claremont Police Officer for a time before retiring in 2006.

One thing each of his jobs had in common was Jack always found himself helping people, a trait he inherited from his mother, Joan. She would make little chocolate easter eggs by hand and with young Jack deliver them around the neighborhood out of sheer kindness. She asked for no rewards or recognition.

“She taught me how to be a giver and not a taker,” Jack said. “She never actually said those words. I learned by doing.”

In 2006, Jack and his wife Beverly took a spontaneous trip up to Los Olivos, California, near Solvang. There, they came across a small garden shop with garden metal work all around. It planted an idea she’d later whisper to Jack.

Concerned about how Jack might pass the time during retirement, she suggested he take up metal art to prevent boredom. He did, and thus began a new chapter of service.

He picked it up quickly and forged a bond with the craft. “I’ve always been good with my hands,” he said.

He honed his skills throughout 2008 and 2009, creating two small metal squirrels and a mother quail.

By 2010, word was out about his charming metal art pieces. He created and donated another squirrel to Claremont After School Programs for a drawing and raffle. It was the first time Jack would donate a piece to raise money for a great cause. It wouldn’t be the last.

Soon he was taking calls from other nonprofits proposing similar transactions, and it’s only grown from there.

Jack’s finished pieces can fetch upwards of $500. Whether they go to raise money for a nonprofit, or as gifts for friends, he seems perfectly content.

In 2013, Jack created his ninth piece, a kiwi bird for Analeise Ferguson, the couple’s tour guide during a 20-day trip to New Zealand. After making that piece he realized his hobby was turning into a charitable passion project he couldn’t switch off.

All of Jack’s 82 metal art pieces to date have been created in his makeshift Claremont home studio — his two-car garage. Around 75 pieces have gone to benefit charities, including the California Botanic Garden, CLASP, Habitat for Humanity, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Jack buys most of his materials from local businesses, and since 2008 has used a Bosch JS260 handheld saw to fashion his metal creations. He cuts each from a piece from sheet metal and hand carves each wood stand.

Between the first sketch and the final cut, it takes him four to six weeks to complete a piece. He crafts between four and six pieces per year.

He has a waiting list of future projects, but he emphasized he isn’t after commercial gain or recognition.

He tells organizations when they receive the gifts, “I know you’re going to show this to the people in your charity and people are going to want to order two or three. I can’t do that. I won’t do it because it now puts pressure on me to make a certain number of these per month and I’m not set up to do that.”

He works on the personalized gifts for charity, friends, and family, but only on his terms.

And if Jack asks you about your favorite animal, it’s a strong indication he’s scheming to give you a piece of metal art, free of charge and from the kindness of his heart, just like mom used to.


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