Rodriquez: Ropes Courses, Inc. Fabricator by day, Artist by night

Rodriquez: Ropes Courses, Inc. Fabricator by day, Artist by night

Rodriquez welds dragon sculpture inside Ropes Courses, Inc. shop for Artprize entry.

Allegan, MI – By day Lou Rodriquez works in the Ropes Courses, Inc. fabrication shop welding steel structured challenge courses. By night Rodriquez applies imagination to his welding skills to create massive sculptures of art. This year he’s using the Ropes Courses, Inc. resources to craft his 5th Artprize entry.

Rodriquez has worked just over a year for Ropes Courses, Inc. (RCI), a Michigan manufacturer of adventure ropes course products that are sold throughout the world. He welds steel structures that range upwards of 25 tons that transform into Sky Trail® and Sky Tykes™ adventure ropes courses, Sky Rails™ and Zip Lines. Once Rodriquez realized his employer had the space, tools, and excess materials he often uses for his art, he approached Jim Liggett, the owner of RCI with a request to work on an Artprize entry piece after hours.

“Before I could even finish asking him, he spit out YES!” said Rodriquez. “The whole shop seems proud. The guys look forward to seeing the progress every Monday morning and tend to ask a lot of questions.”

Jim remarks on his in-house artist, “Lou has been an asset to this company since he started. I wish he could utilize his creative skills more so on our courses, but nonetheless, he is a master welder on the shop floor.”

He began to work on the 20ft long, 9ft wide, and 8.5ft tall dragon in late April and has logged in over 350 hours towards the project. It will weigh over 2,500lbs before it is complete. The art piece followed a similar life cycle to RCI’s ropes courses, design, fabrication, sand blast and paint. It is scheduled to ship Sept. 21.

When asked about his vision for the piece he chuckled, “it was originally going to be an octopus, but once I drew it out I knew it’d be way too complicated to complete in my timeframe. The dragon came from a painting I keep on my tool locker door.” He spent a lot of time researching the traditional Chinese dragon, which has attributes of nine other creatures including the paws of a tiger, the beard of a goat, and the scales of a carp. “It’s quite the process, but I enjoy it.”

The sculpture, I Used to be An Octopus, will be displayed at the Calder Plaza, a popular space adjoining the City and County buildings in Grand Rapids for the 7th annual Artprize event. RCI will transport and set it in place before the event starts on Sept. 23.

Rodriquez will spend the entire first Saturday of Artprize next to his sculpture. “It’s the coolest thing for an artist to hear people’s reactions to your work.”

The next question is, will there be a RCI employee field trip to Grand Rapids next month?

About Lou Rodriquez and his business Metal Art by Lou

Based in South Haven, Lou Rodriquez began sculpting metal in 2010. That same year he entered Artprize for the first time and was awarded the top 25 out of 1,700 entrants. Entering again, he was awarded top 100 in 2011, top 75 in 2012, and top 50 in 2013. He has since turned his passion into a side business, Metal Art by Lou, specializing in custom metal artwork of all sizes for customers around the globe. Lou welcomes the challenge customers bring to him. He can be reached at (269) 359-2046 or metalartbylou@gmail.com.

About Ropes Courses, Inc.

Ropes Courses, Inc. has been manufacturing, installing and servicing adventure course products since 1989. Sky Trail® is their premier product line. Courses are currently installed in a wide variety of settings from amusement parks to zoos; family entertainment centers to museums; and malls to cruise ships worldwide. Indoor application or out, courses are designed to factor in safety, capacity, training and expandability. Visit www.ropescoursesinc.com for additional information about Ropes Courses, Inc.

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