He and Casey Tyrell started Salvaging Creativity, an industrial design business, in early 2006. In November 2007, the duo purchased the 26,000-square-foot former York Ice Machinery building with plans to turn it into a studio and living space.
If you pay attention, you can see lots of Salvaging Creativity handiwork around town. Take a walk down North Beaver Street. Sells, Tyrell and Matthew Shober produced all of the funky, functional items that catch your eye, including sculptural trashcans, benches made with metal gears and wooden floor supports and a planter created with funnels from a coffee company. Most of the items were unveiled in November 2010. More have been added since.
The project was part of the downtown revitalization initiative known as Creativity Unleashed. The idea was a result of consultant Roger Brooks' 2009 visit to York. Brooks suggested that the city capitalize on its industrial history. North Beaver Street businesses rallied to match a $10,000 grant furnished by M & T Bank to fund the art project on their block.
Now, Sells has moved down the street to North George Street.
Downtown Inc. and The City of York will help manage the new project. North George Street businesses and an anonymous donor provided funding.
Sells has been overseeing the project for about a year. He said he approached people who had experience with durable art and sculpture and who had spaces where they could create pieces. The idea was for different local artists decorate the street this time. Sells collected blueprints and presented them to a committee and sponsors.
The industrial theme is present, but Sells said the North George Street art will be less functional and more imaginative.
"One is a bike rack, but most (pieces) are sculptural and just for fun," he said. "We have cats and chickens and dragons."
The art effort coincides with the North George Street streetscape projects, which started this spring. Crews are working on new crosswalks and curb extensions.
About 10 art pieces from six artists will be installed when construction is finished, possibly as soon as this fall. Sells helped plan the layout for the North George Street art, which will stretch from Clarke Avenue to North Street. The goal, he said, was visibility. So, he had to make sure parked cars and other objects didn't obscure the sculptures.
Salvaging Creativity helped build some foundations. It will pick up pieces from area artists in a flat-bed truck. And, to place the art, it will borrow a forklift from Rudy Art Glass Studio, since some of the pieces are heavy and tall, Sells said.
The project included funding for a seventh piece, which will be a mini documentary about the art. Two filmmakers will interview artists and shoot the installation process.
But Sells is already looking beyond North George Street. He wants to reach even more artists, possibly through local colleges and schools, for future endeavors.
"The next discussion is to make the streetscape into a gallery venue to incentivize the program so that the pieces would be for sale," he said. He added that fundraising efforts offset some costs, but the art is difficult and expensive to produce.
If pieces are sold, Sells said a percentage would go to Creativity Unleashed and the remainder would go to the artist so he or she could make a replacement object. He doesn't want empty spaces on the street.
The self-sustaining project could add even more art to York.
"Make a market for the artists (and) they will live here and make more (art)," Sells said.
PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 771-2051 or send an email to email@example.com.
More Salvaging Creativity projects in York
New Year's Eve rose drop - Dec. 31, 2011 marked the third time a newly minted rose was dropped in York. The New Year's icon was created by Patrick Sells, who made the flower from metal.
Industrial Plaza - This was the unofficial name of the intersection of West Philadelphia Street and Roosevelt Avenue since the 1990s. In February, it became official when a metal sign, complete with gears and rivets, was unveiled by the Economic Development Corp. and Salvaging Creativity. The sign, meant to celebrate local industrial history, is composed of salvaged steel plates from various industries.
CreekFire - In May, a fire pit was anchored in the Codorus Creek next to Foundry Plaza. Salvaging Creativity was commissioned to build three stainless steel, floating fire pits. Each is about 3 feet in diameter.
Read more: Get updates and see photos about Salvaging Creativity projects at www.salvagingcreativity.com.
Artists participating in North George Street project
Robert H. Machovec, Jr.- An artist from Glen Rock who created the gear garden
Robert J. Machovec - Robert H.'s son, who is working on a scavenger hunt of small sculptures for the North George Street project
Lorann Jacobs - Dallastown sculptor who created the statue to honor World War II veterans on Continental Square
Derek Arnold - Metal sculptor with whom Patrick Sells apprenticed with in northern Baltimore County
Joshua Seitzer - York County School of Technology welding instructor
Mary Cantrell Tellez - Has done mosaic work in York, including a large piece on West Philadelphia Street
Nikolas Diener and Gregory Timmons - Filming a documentary about the North George Street art project