Richard Jarel – Exporting Culture Globally

LocalsGuide gets you upclose and personal with the movers and shakers who make it all happen. This is my promise to you as a reader, because I believe that you, like me, want to know just a little bit more about the community and people that surround you.

This month ‘s feature is on Richard Jarel. Richard (shown on this months cover) is the sculptor and artist behind Medford’s latest and greatest work of art, “Salmon Flight”. The new kinetic sculpture is now prominently displayed on the corner of 8th and Oakdale, right outside of City Hall. It is the result of over seven years of work and the support of the Medford Arts Commission. (Go Medford Arts Commission!!!)

On January 18th , Richard, Mayor Gary Wheeler and the Arts Commission unveiled the new sculpture. As to be expected, the mainstream media rushed in to capture their 30 second spots for the evening news… only you probably didn’t hear about it… because you were picking your kids up from the Y, or stepped into the kitchen for a quick snack.
Never fear though…because we got the story…both online and in video episodes. We thought you would like to learn just a little bit more about the story behind the story.
The story behind the story really is that you already know Richard Jarel, only you haven’t met him in person. Odds are however, that not only have you seen one of his creations, but you have directly experienced the effect of his work. Richard has been a primary creative force for such global companies as Mattel, Universal Studios. Paramount Pictures and Disney, creating some of the most well known cultural and commercial iconography of our time.

From the Batmobile to the Power Rangers helmets; the flying police cars in Fifth Element to the bicycle sculptures out in front of Science Works, somewhere, sometime, you have seen his work.

Richard is probably one of the most creative people on the planet, and he lives right here in the Valley, exporting his creations around the world for children and adults alike to enjoy. What Richard brings to the equation however, is a unique knack for figuring difficult things out, and finding ways to make them work: Like when he built the world’s fastest hand powered bicycle. He never had a background in aerodynamics or engineering…he just figured it out. (Figure that out.)

The “Salmon Flight” kinetic sculpture in downtown Medford is yet another example of ingenuity and genius all in one. Standing over 20 ft Tall, the sculpture depicts three large salmon swimming in a river. Because it’s kinetic, it moves with the wind and is delicately balanced using over 100 bearing points to shift it’s 13 separate components with the slightest breeze. A wonderful new fountain (also designed by Richard) surrounds the bright red sculpture, and is well worth a trip downtown to see the full effect.
Of course you always hear the stories of how the person behind the worlds greatest inventions had a difficult time in school, but it did surprise me to learn that Richard had failed at art. How could he have failed at art?

But it ‘s true, Richard Jarel received an F in art on his high school senior report card. Instead of participating in class activities, he was attempting to build his own human powered flying machine–which was towed behind the school maintenance cart. Crashing in front of 600 classmates did not stop him. Laugh they did, but three attempts later he would soar into the air taking flight and a hold of many more dreams yet to come.

Richard’s Rogue Valley studio is an archive of his creative journey. Hundreds of pencil sketches, molds and prototypes line the walls of his pond-side home…and “Oh. you made that…too!?!” is a common phrase. Nothing is a surprise to discover. Why federal agents showed up at Richard’s studio one day to question him about why his new model airplane looked just like one of the governments own top secret jets…nobody will ever know.

Richard Jarel can make literally anything you could think of. Given enough time, he can concept it, design it and build it. If he couldn’t do it himself, he would get help. If he didn’t understand the process, he would learn. If he needed tools, he would find them and if they didn’t exist, he would make them. It might take him millions of dollars, time and materials, but in the end, if I was stuck on a island with the promise of an escape only by space ship, I would choose Richard to be able to build it…after all he did make Super Man fly. (Richard built the first ever remote control Flying Superman!)


See It On LocalsGuide
PREMIER Video Cast
February 21st. 2008

The list goes on and on and on… but what I really want to know is…HOW? How does he do this, and how did he learn to do it?
And here is the secret: “I can’t” never enters his mind!
…and that my friends is the billion dollar answer to living a life which is not just ordinary, but one that is simply extraordinary.
So I asked him a few questions about this :

Is it scary? “Hell yes …”
is it stressful? “Often.”
Is it painful? “It can be.”
Do you crash and burn? “Many times.”

The reward for sticking it out? “The confidence that comes from knowing that you stood up to the challenge. That you faced the fear and lived your life at its potential. “
I didn’t totally understand Richard’s immense capacity of creative vision until I overheard him describing it to someone: “ When I see a block of clay I not only see the clay, but I see the completed shape within it and I focus on removing the unneeded parts around it. I used to spend hours and hours planning and making sketches on how to do the work. Then I realized that this was an exhaustion of my creativity and an expression of my fear to risk beginning the work. Now I jump in feet first. Sure it’s scary but I let go and trust. The rest just happens.”

I get it, the potential is always there. We just have to be able to see it and then set it free.


This month we begin a unique series of LocalsGuide media coverage. We start with this feature article on Richard.Radio news updates will direct Southern Oregonian’s to view the new sculpture while an online series of video casts will be launched.

LocalsGuide site member: Jamie

created a documentary of Richard’s interesting story, how he actually got his big break.


Then on February 21st, we will be launching our first LocalsGuide video cast up close and personal with Richard in his studio. This will lead to a series of ongoing monthly shows! (You can even create your own)!

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Shields Bialasik

Hi, I am Shields. I am the creator or LocalsGuide. The mission or my company is to provide a positive media platform for my community which in turn makes it stronger and more resilient. I hope you will enjoy and feel inspired to start your own LocalsGuide in your town or community.

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