Heads turn and people point and elbow each other. Others stop and ask, “What are you doing?” as Beamsville, Ontario, artist Floyd Elzinga, harnessed to a 100-year-old cultivator, plows through a crowd. It’s a Friday night in the city of Hamilton’s James Street North arts district; the metal sculptor and member of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, is taking his art public as a launching point for social commentary.
Elzinga meets the stares and questions with varying responses, depending on who’s asking and how much they want to interact. While a typical answer, “Just cultivating James Street—trying to make it from Barton Street to Main Street,” offers the facts, Elzinga is most pleased when he can engage someone in conversation about the work.
“[It’s about] making a connection to agriculture and how there is a disconnect between the [business] people who produce the food and the antique equipment, and the kind of thoughts that are brought up by that,” Elzinga says.
Raised on a dairy farm in Jarvis, Ontario, Elzinga says his current fascination with agricultural relics comes from those roots. Having received cast-off farm equipment from his father, George Elzinga, as fodder for his metal sculpture, the seed of the idea of publicly demonstrating a working plow began to germinate.
In his Beamsville studio, Elzinga spends his days creating sheet-metal landscapes and functional garden art. But, he says, “While I’m making these I’m thinking about this sort of thing, and these ideas don’t really leave my mind until I bring them to fruition.”
And as with a literal crop, sometimes the fruit reseeds and yields another harvest. The two-hour venture of dragging the cultivator over paved road and sidewalk just scratched the surface for Elzinga—he next wants to go deeper, hauling the tool through ground that could actually be cultivated.