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WYSO's Studio Visit is about Miami Valley contemporary artists and the ideas that inspire their work. The series is produced by Susan Byrnes from the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices

Studio Visit: Tim Wells

Lunch Tray with pepperoni pizza, corn, carrots, fruit cup and milk
Tim Wells
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Join producer Susan Byrnes as she follows itinerant community artist, teacher and photographer Tim Wells in Darke County, Ohio.

Tim Wells travels a lot for work. He’s a resident of Michigan but has been doing community art in Troy Ohio since 2015, and just spent a year as artist in residence at Mississinawa Valley School in Darke County, Ohio. I visited him at the site where he shot his most recent series of works.

"My first day there at the school it was just kind of fun being back in the schools setting," Tim said. "And so I just thought it was hysterical that I get to go into lunch line and walk through and get this lunch on a Styrofoam tray."

Tim asked a student, “What is today?”

She responded, “Loaded Nachos.”

He replied enthusiastically, “Oh, I like those!”

"And so I just took a picture of it and sent it to my wife and said, 'Hey, I’m a student again!' So I just started doing it every day, I started taking a picture of my lunch," he recalled. "And then it became something I had to do, it was kind of, once I started, I didn’t want to stop.

A student asked Tim, “So what’s this for then, talking about like lunch?”

Tim responded, “It’s talking about time and how artists document time in their artwork, and so this is me documenting my school year here through my lunches.”

"I think time is more, is differently presented by a photographer than by the other visual arts because we are working in such fractions of time when we are making our images," Tim said. "I’m more of a street photographer than a studio photographer. I enjoy exploring the world with my cameras and taking pictures of what interests me."

Lunch tray
Tim Wells
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I asked, “So what’s your favorite lunch?”

Tim replied, “Walking Tacos is always a popular one, Sloppy Joes were nice, one thing I was always trying to figure out was that with pizza they always served corn. I don’t know what pizza has to do with corn but when you saw the menu has pizza it was like 'Ok, we’re having corn today.'”

"In my brain, you know this is taking me back to seventh grade," he said. "You go through the lunch line, and I remember specifically the rolls and the snickerdoodles were the best rolls and snickerdoodles ever. So having the chance to go back and experience that again, as an adult, as somebody who is in their fifties, you know, is having this chance to flash back."

"The last five years I’ve been more on the arts, community, curating side than the making side. I’m an introvert," Tim said. "So having to go to the galleries and sell your work wasn’t really my thing. Going to the gallery openings was the most painful experience I’ve ever had in my life. So I kind of gave up on that scene, and that’s how I started getting into community work. So I started looking at residencies because my work is site specific. I get more interested going to new places and seeing new things than I do sitting in my studio day-after-day-after-day."

"When I travel around, the first couple of days, I’m taking pictures of the obvious. Then I start looking for the day to day stuff, then I start looking for the weird, quirky stuff. How can I see the town I’m living in with fresh eyes as if I’m just here for the first time," Tim stated.

"I have very broad interests." Tim proclaimed. "I do photography but I also do painting, I do printmaking, I do screen-printing, I started up a non-profit, and we were showing movies at the movie theatre in Troy, we started doing a podcast on that, and there was a newsletter that was going out that was Art Around Town Dayton, and the person who was running it asked if anyone wanted to take it over, and I was like, 'Sure, I’ll do it!' And I keep expanding things more and more but I don’t think it dilutes me as an artist, it just helps me understand and appreciate more what I’m trying to make."

Tim calmly stated, "I’m getting to the point in my age that I’m realizing that all of the things that I wanted to do when I was starting as an artist may not be achievable, so it’s more realizing that maybe me leaving my mark on the world is going to be a different way than I thought twenty years ago."

Studio Visit is produced by Susan Byrnes and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Susan works as visual artist, arts writer, teaching artist, and audio producer. She lives in Cincinnati now but loves, misses, and often visits the Miami Valley. You can find her visual and audio works on her website www.susanbstudio.com.