The story of the artist and the found-object artwork that both ended up behind the bar at the Wise Acre Eatery in south Minneapolis began in Grandpa's garage in Richfield.
Growing up in the inner-ring suburb in the 1970s, Tim Schweitzer and his twin brother had a rare stroke of geographic, genealogical luck.
"Both our grandfathers lived within a mile of us, so we spent tons of time over there," Schweitzer said. "There were all kinds of cool-looking tools and we weren't sure what some of them did."
Tree forts were built and a healthy obsession grew. Schweitzer eventually wound up at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, forging a career as a designer, builder and carpenter with what he calls some serious "nostalgia issues as a found-object junkie."
Employed at an Edina woodworking shop that made custom frames for galleries and museums, Schweitzer would collect the discarded wood moldings and "bag it all up" until the economy tanked and he was laid off.
Luckily, his musical career was thumping. He was a program director at one of the first Internet radio stations, netradio.com, and is a deejay in a band called Tambuca.
His career veered into garden design at Tangletown Gardens, the south Minneapolis nursery that converted an old Standard Oil station and frozen custard shop into the fresh-food hot spot Wise Acre at 5401 Nicollet Av. S. earlier this year. Schweitzer had worked at the original Muddy Waters coffee shop as an art student, so he naturally gravitated behind the wine and beer bar at Wise Acre.
"I'm very, very fast behind the bar," he said. "To me, it doesn't even seem like I'm working."
In his garage studio, he's been tinkering for four years with what he calls assemblage boxes, using found objects from pencils to coins to those compasses from math class. He's dismantled three pianos and uses the keys and innards to play off themes of synchronicity and time.
"I find these objects, whether they are tools or pieces of pianos, and recreate them to tell new stories," he said. With metal drawer handles and hinges he finds at garage sales, Schweitzer frames the objects and hangs them behind the bar.
"Three people wanted to buy them right off the wall in the first couple weeks, and I didn't even have a price list," he said. His website, www.timschweitzerart.com, lists a range of prices from $200 to $400.
Schweitzer wants to create more large-scale artwork, perhaps adding organic forms to his linear designs.
That might make it tough to squeeze behind the tiny bar at Wise Acre, "not to mention heavier and harder to ship and transport," he said. "But we'll see."
If Grandpa could build a tree fort in a garage, anything is possible.