On the outskirts of Marshfield, there is a place where scrap metal enters a shop and comes out as a masterpiece. The finished product has hours, days or maybe even weeks invested into each and every weld or layer of paint.
Urban Art District, owned and operated by Melissa and Randy Smith, has been providing customers and art fans with modern pieces for around five years.
From garage sales to recycling centers, Randy and Melissa get their materials for their sculptures from a wide array of places. Canvas, metal, glass and now wood are all materials the Smiths use to put their imagination to the test.
Melissa’s love for art started at a young age. Her talent and creativity was on display as early as her elementary school art class. She needed to make an art smock for her first art class and when she completed it, her art teacher gave her a compliment on how well it turned out.
This compliment laid the groundwork for what would turn into a career in art.
“I felt a sense of accomplishment, and I felt as if I made something that really mattered to somebody else,” Melissa said. “That feeling was one of the most valuable things I had taken from my childhood.”
Melissa has painted every piece (that has paint) the duo has created. She also names each piece and provides a story on the piece’s background. This gives the owner a sentimental attachment to what they are buying.
Over the course of her career, Melissa began to start photography and now has incorporated it into many of her pieces. Melissa has her own line of canvas paintings and urbanized portraits that are available on their website. Randy attributes his creativity and career in art to his wife.
“I don’t consider myself an artist, but I am married to someone who is and who has inspired me to look at my inner creativeness,” Randy said. “We support each other and build off each other’s energy.”
Randy’s start in art came not as an artist but as a machinist at a very young age. Randy’s father was a machinist at Mercury Marine for 40 years and had machines and parts at home that he and Randy would work on.
“My dad was my best friend and my hero,” Randy said. “You know, I’m an only son so everywhere he went, I went. Everything he did out in the shop, I was out there too.”
After a battle with an aneurysm, Randy lost his dad in 2016. He left behind machines, metal and memories that were valuable to Randy.
“I lost my dad about four and a half years ago,” Randy said. “After he passed away, my mom was like, ‘What am I going to do with all this junk?’ I bought it all. I just bought all the pieces and parts and junk.”
Randy’s memory of his father is embodied in a very special piece that he created shortly after his dad’s death.
“After my dad’s funeral, we came home and I had just lost my dad so I sat and I dumped all the junk out on the garage floor,” Randy said. “I sat there and bawled my eyes out and three hours later, that was built.”
Randy pointed to a 22-pound metal motorcycle that was fitted on a rotating table made out of an old gear.
“You know, this is a piece… of everything that we have, everything is for sale, but this piece I will not sell,” Randy said. “When [Melissa] saw this thing, she looked at me and said, ‘You need to be doing this.’”
Randy was offered to name his price by a motorcycle enthusiast but he just couldn’t part with the piece.
Randy said he still has his good and bad days but the hobby just acts as a stress reliever
“I’ve had days where I just went out in the shop for three hours and couldn’t build a thing,” Randy said. “It’s just like having writer’s block. I’ve also had days where I go out [to the shop] and 20 minutes later I have 10 pieces made. Stuff just kind of falls together on days like that.”
You could say the couple’s rural home is an artist’s paradise. Randy uses a detached shop for all of his sculpture building while the duo’s basement is reserved for Melissa’s painting and photography studios.
Over the past five years, Urban Art District has been gradually growing.
“We’ve almost doubled every year,” Melissa said. “We’ve been doing pretty well. We’re still growing and have a long way to go but we’re definitely making good progress.”
Ideally, the couple would like to move into a building in Marshfield but according to Randy, people have been a little more tight with their money this year, possibly due to the pandemic.
Most recently, they created a piece for Melody Gardens that exhibits the essence of their business. The nearly 8-foot long sculpture is made solely of metal and has elements of musical notes, ice cream, flowers and roller skates among others.
If you are interested in purchasing or just looking at Melissa and Randy’s work, you can go to their website www.Urban-Art-District.com.