One began sculpting largely as the result of a dream. Another turned to painting to avoid seeing his artistic works melt. Although they come from vastly different backgrounds, both now live and work at the Harvester Artspace Lofts in Council Bluffs.
A native of Muncie, Indiana, Kirk Vaughn-Robinson moved to Florida with his family when he was 9.
Although always interested in the arts, Vaughn-Robinson came to sculpture and related art forms by what many would consider a circuitous route.
Jesse Medina was born in Manila, The Philippines, where he graduated from the University of Santo Tomas’s College of Architecture and fine arts with a Bachelor of Science degree in fine arts and painting.
Vaughn-Robinson was initially a music major with an emphasis on vocal performance at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. He then transferred to Converse College in Spartenburg, South Carolina, where he received a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance.
Vaughn-Robinson eventually moved to New York City where he spent 12 years as a cast member in the national Broadway tour of “The Phantom of the Opera” in the roles of Lefevre and the Fire Chief, traveling throughout the United States and Canada.
Outside the Broadway work with “The Phantom of the Opera,” Vaughn-Robinson, a singer-actor-dancer had performed with the Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Sorg & Whitewater Opera companies and the Cincinnati Pops.
Sculpting, a self-taught art form for Vaughn-Robinson, grew from a dream.
“I had a dream about a half-man, half-goat character,” he said. “‘The Phantom of the Opera’ tour was in Omaha, and I began sculpting in the basement of the home of some friends.”
That was in 2008. By 2009 Vaughn-Robinson’s work was being shown in a gallery in Laguna Beach, California, and later at the Leslie Lohma Gallery in Soho, New York.
“I was looking for a home, and I had friends here,” Vaughn-Robinson said. “When I walked into the Harvester Artspace Lofts, the whole industrial loft setting was exactly what I’d been looking for. I’ve been here eight years.”
In 2013, Vaughn-Robinson was named artist in residence at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska. While there he wrote and illustrated a rhyming book, “The Chorus of the Forest,” and completed a companion permanent sculpture of the two main characters in the book.
Vaughn-Robinson is currently the 2018-19 artist in residence at Vesper Concerts in Omaha.
After beginning his career as a painter, Medina came to the United States and eventually moved to Florida where his brother, a culinary artist, was an ice carver. It was working with his brother that prompted his comment that he did not want to produce an art form that melted soon after being completed.
Medina came to Bellevue in 1998 and remained there until 2010 when he moved to Council Bluffs and the Harvester Artspace Lofts.
While living in Bellevue, he worked — like his brother in Florida — as a culinary artist to earn a living. Much of his work involved intricate carvings done on pumpkins and watermelons that served as centerpieces for party tables.
Medina turned to art full-time when he moved into the Harvester Artspace Lofts in 2010.
“Art is really the expression of the self,” he said. “The paintings that I create are the result of my personal experiences, thoughts, feelings and will. The subjects represented are signs and symbols used to express an inner vision into the world without.”
Like Vaughn-Robinson, Medina has experimented with a variety of art forms other than painting, including wood carvings and sculptures. He is currently contemplating experimenting with metal sculptures on a scale smaller than the public art pieces that have been installed in Council Bluffs by the Iowa West Foundation.