Happiness on wheels

(Above) Jerry Nelson, local steel sculpture artist, poses with the utility van he turned into a work of art to “make people happy.” -Reporter photo by Marianne Gasaway

‘Van Go’ carries parts for arts

by Lisa Riggin

Ever wanted to see a Van Gogh in real life?  If you keep your eyes open you may see the next best thing—and it’s on wheels! 

Local sculpture artist Jerry Nelson’s colorful mobile creation, Van Go, has been bringing smiles to anyone who’s been lucky enough to spot it rolling through town. According to Jerry, that’s the entire point.

“When I first started talking about painting the van I said we all need something in this world that’s a little bit brighter and happier that’s all about love and peace,” explained Jerry. “And that’s what Van Go provides.”

Jerry’s main medium is steel, so most of the time he’s welding and grinding large-scale projects. Getting the materials to his studio requires a large vehicle and when his old truck needed replacing, the search led him to Nebraska and an old Air Force box van that once carried pilots and mechanics out to the planes. With its size and durability it easily carries the large, heavy steel panels he needs for projects. But according to Jerry, the best part has been creating and sharing the mobile canvas.

Forty-years ago Jerry helped paint a friend’s VW van so he was no stranger to the process.  He included several of that original van’s motifs in homage to that experience and his hippie past—though he insists he’s still a dyed-in-the-wool hippie, just with shorter hair.  Similar to his experience with the VW van, Jerry has invited others to add their talents to the mix.

“Two neighbor kids, Lauryn (12) and Gabby (9) Coleman started the painting on the grill and a friend’s granddaughter has contributed, too. It’s a really fun part of the vehicle and everyone comments on the 

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