Local artist exhibiting historic steel mill sculptures

Dec. 29—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The window display at 421 Main St. in downtown Johnstown has been dark for years, but recently the site was lit by the history of the city.

Local artist Joseph Hensel worked with entrepreneur Mike Artim to display his sculptures in the space until the location is ready for the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Greater Johnstown School District to take it over in the spring as a culinary training facility.

"I just thought, 'Where do I get exposure? Here's some blank windows on Main Street,' " Hensel said. "I thought it would be good to beautify Main Street."

He worked on Dec. 22 to set up the pieces, which included lamps, wood sculptures and framed blueprints.

Hensel is a preservationist and assemblage artist who, throughout the years, has acquired a treasure trove of steel-making history, particularly from Johnstown.

In his possession are original blueprints from U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel companies, steel-making patterns and documents from both facilities.

"When I saw it, I appreciated the artistry in it and I thought it could be transformed into something useful or beautiful," Hensel said, "and it kept the story of Johnstown alive."

One of the pieces he has displayed is the schematic of a power station that's wrapped around a lamp mounted on top of a model train power station.

Another features sections of a pattern that he cut and reassembled.

His goal, when creating this art, is to "give them balance."

As Hensel installed and arranged his work, one passerby commented, "outrageously cool," and noted his appreciation for the historic labels and stamps on the sculptures. A couple stopped and shared their appreciation for the historical significance of the items.

"I'm glad to see they get it," Hensel said.

Artim is also interested in the historical and artistic value of the display.

That's why he wants to support Hensel's endeavor.

"I think it's a cool thing to have," Artim said. "I'm all about supporting local artists."

Artim owns the building and manages the City of Johnstown Entrepreneur Center.

He said the organization is focused on lifting up new and existing small businesses.

Artim said he and Hensel are working on a long-term area to display the sculptures and other artifacts, once 421 Main St. is occupied.

Hensel said the price range on the items is from $85 to $250.

He's placed a QR code in the window display to direct interested parties to his website, ironwoodartifacts.net, where more of his work can be explored, as well as the artist's contact information.

Shipping, delivery and pickup are available for the items downtown.