Deep Thinking at Tinkertown Museum

by Jessica on March 10, 2011


After the morning of serious ceremonial dancing, we decided we needed something fun and crazy for the afternoon. Tinkertown Museum, located outside of Albuquerque in Sandia Park, fit the bill. Most of the time, I have my trip itinerary nailed down before we travel, but occasionally we find a site that looks interesting enough to wiggle its way into the schedule.

I will warn you. Most of the time, I try to describe our travels with a fair amount of unemotional reservation. But towards the end of this, you will find that I might get downright sappy, so be prepared. When we travel, we see things that are pleasant, things that thought provoking, and things that are awe inspiring. Sometimes, usually when we least expect it, we come across something in our travels that worms its way into our soul and transforms us just a little bit.

Tinkertown Museum is the folk art creation of a single man, Ross J. Ward. For over 40 years, Ward carved, collected, and constructed a menagerie of wooden figures and eccentric Americana. As you enter the museum, an innocuous little sign says simply “I did all this while you were watching TV,” and then you enter the world of Ross Ward. The museum is a maze of twists and turns with room after room of animated figures that come to life with the push of a button. Armed with a pocket full of quarters, the boys delighted in Esmeralda the Fortune Teller and Otto the one man band.  These are just two of the several coin- operated treats in the museum. Laid out like an I Spy book, you can never see every detail.  Even looking back at the photos, I see things I missed while we were visiting.   The passion with which Ward created this kaleidoscopic wonderland created an experience where I both knew him and loved him, even though just moments before he had been a stranger.

Ward’s wife, Carla, greeted us as we exited the museum. I thanked her profoundly for sharing the work of her husband with us.  She chatted for a moment about his passion, and how much she enjoys watching others enjoy his work now that he is no longer living. I was struck by the warmth and admiration in her eyes as she spoke of her late husband. As we parted, I imagined the connection she must feel to the work, and the immortality it provides for Ross Ward.

Back in our car, I looked up to see a sign that was just above our parking spot. “Live life as the pursuit of happiness.” That summed up the whole museum for me. Tinkertown was not just a winsome way to spend an afternoon.  The creation inspired me to deep thought and action.  As we drove a way I was challenged to find a way to pursue happiness every day, warmed by the love and affection expressed by the artist’s wife, and grateful that Ross Ward had the good sense to follow his passion instead of watching TV.

This post is linked to Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

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