Toxic Brew Company, in the heart of the Oregon District, has a reputation for supporting local artists—from the murals that flank its outer walls to the revolving exhibits that line its taproom. This Wednesday, November 22nd, Toxic is hosting a pre-Thanksgiving event to unveil its latest permanent piece, a functional yet skillfully crafted tap box that will serve up the brewery’s beers.
The new bar sculpture is the creation of local woodworker Shon Walters. Patrons of Toxic will recognize Walters’ work—he created the extensive wooden tap sculpture out of which the bar’s craft cocktails currently pour. Dubbed Vonquola, the existing piece is smooth and exotic looking—almost humanoid, almost molecular. Walters explains that the bar sculpture is “the drunken mother alien who offers her teats of nourishment. She is an ancient female from another world who used to be a nurturing mother to fallen soldiers of the galactic war.”
Walters works often blend the fantastic with finely honed craftsmanship. He is a master woodworker with an eye for eclectic materials and an ability to coax seemingly impossible shapes from wood. The artist, who started woodworking in 1992 and turned it into his profession eight years later with the opening of his business, Eccentric Wood, has designed several pieces around town. In just the last year, he has constructed the bar back for Meadowlark, the donor’s plaque for the Neon Movies, and a massive sculpture in Lebanon’s library consisting of more than a dozen intricate yet larger-than-life undulating flowers (a piece that Walters describes as “the flowers’ ultimate devouring of the sun.”)
Walters’ second bar installation at Toxic represents further growth for the bar and a deepening partnership between the artist and the brewer. When it opened four years ago, Toxic Brew Company started with ten taps, installed by owner Shane Juhl. Six months later, Juhl added ten more. After obtaining the extra license to serve guest beers, wine, and liquor, Juhl explains that he was at capacity again: “Twenty taps just weren’t enough and our small walk-in cooler was over capacity.” Juhl turned to the local art community to help him expand his bar.
“It just makes sense to support local artists,” Juhl explains. “Their art brings a freshness and character to the walls and space and even better when they are functional. The art is a conversion piece.”
It was through Juhl’s existing relationship with local artists that he found Walters. Tiffany Clark and etch, cofounders of the street art project The Mural Machine and regular exhibitors at Toxic, were renting studio space from Walters. They were taken by his delicate forms and the unique fluidity of his wooden pieces, so when they learned that Juhl wanted to update his bar, they introduced him to the sculptor.
Juhl was drawn in, too. Shortly after touring Walters’ showroom, Juhl commissioned the Walters to create the tap housing for his craft cocktails. Several months later, Vonquola was christened and put into use, bringing an artistic touch to an area of the bar that is often more functional than creative. “I thought my tap enclosure was respectable until Shon’s gorgeous tap goddess was placed next to my humble wood boxes,” Juhl jokes.
The reception to Vonquola has been overwhelmingly positive, so when it came time for Juhl to update the bar again, Walters was his first pick. The pair have been quietly working for months to prepare the newest addition to Juhl’s bar. Kept secret until now, Walters and Juhl describe the new piece as “Vonquola’s life partner.”
Ready now to be hung and to join with its mate, the sculpture’s unveiling takes place at 3:30
on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The brewery is hosting a party for the unveiling: Toxic’s doors will open at 3, with door prizes for those who arrive before the reveal, special tappings every 30 minutes until 5 pm, and $2 off Toxic pints during the same timeframe.
For more information about Walters’ work, see his website http://www.shonwalters.com. To learn more about Toxic Brew Company, as well as to get directions to the unveiling, visit http://toxicbrewcompany.com. The brewery is located at 431 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45402.