Joyful Critters: Clyde Jones’ Legacy of Smiles

This month, I am celebrating artists who have actively designed a creative legacy, how they have shaped my creative experience in the here-and-now, and how their creative legacy continues to inspire others.

Some artists — Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others — leave a financial trust as their stamp of influence on future generations of artists.  Other artists wholly devote themselves to the task of sparking young creative minds.

Clyde Jones’ home and Critter Crossing (Photo Credit: Carrboro.com)

One such artist, Clyde Jones, has been crafted a legacy of joyful smiles for three decades.  Outside of his house lies a “Critter Crossing” featuring hundreds of roughly hewn big-eared and big-hearted animals.  Clyde scrabbles together scraps of wood to create a wide range of creatures (from elephants to dogs to giraffes).  When he is not sculpting critters, he is teaching local children how to create their own chainsaw sculptures.

Although he is an internationally-renowned and iconic folk artist, he prefers to give the critters away to good homes rather than sell them.  His gifts are often auctioned off at high prices to benefit local charities, but the critters made to bring joy — not cash.

Clyde creates critters for his own enjoyment — and for anyone else who is young at heart.  That is why he just can’t stop making them, no matter how full the yard gets.

DK: Clyde, you meet more people in a week than most people meet in a year.

CJ: Gawd, yes, my yard’s full all the time.

DK: Does that ever get to be too much?

CJ: No, it makes me want to do better. It gives me something to go for.

DK: You want to keep making critters for people?

CJ: As long as I can.

(From Wisdom, Wit, and Wood: At Home with Folk Artist Clyde Jones by Dave Korzon in Rambler Magazine)

His generosity and devotion has endeared him not only to Bynum but to the entire state of North Carolina.  When Bynum’s local art council runs ClydeFEST, where kids of all ages enjoy original critter-inspired games, interactive art activities, live music, local food, a critter raffle in Clyde’s honor, thousands of folks show up.

Clyde’s legacy — a yardful of smiles — inspires us to use our hands, time, resources, and hearts to bring a light to other people’s faces.

Interested in meeting Clyde and seeing Critter Crossing for yourself?  Click here for a map.

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