Very Small Town America

An Oxford American mini-documentary, featured above, lost a National Magazine Award earlier this month to Romney’s 47% video on Mother Jones. Kevin Hartnett reflects:

There’s a lot of joy and some sadness, too, in Tiny Town, a small-scale world housed in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The elaborate model was carved and assembled over the course of 68 years by Frank Moshinskie and today it’s managed as a modest tourist attraction by his son, Charles. … The movie shows Charles–who’s no young man himself–telling about how the display began as a decoration beneath his dad’s Christmas tree and grew over seven decades into an ensemble that includes scenes from 21 different states in the country. There’s a replica of Dodge City from the television show Gunsmoke, a little Niagara Falls, and an island cabin tucked among the trees. Charles says his dad liked to carve figures that move, so Tiny Town includes kids poised on teeter-totters, a sheriff sticking up some poor soul, a floating hot air balloon, and a circling airplane. The whole thing is marvelous, but it becomes more acutely melancholic when Charles climbs into Tiny Town to show the audience around: He’s ostensibly a giant, but really the model’s smallness starts to reflect our own.

Update from a reader:

The touching video you posted today of Frank Moshinskie and his “Tiny Town” reminded me of another talented folk artist whose life work has become a beloved roadside attraction. I had the pleasure of visiting Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas a few summers back. Mr. Smith is a warm, lively soul in his 90s who shows no signs of slowing in his passion for making art out of toilet seats. Barney said, “I was a master plumber before I retired so I was comfortable with the medium.”

I made a short video of our visit. Here’s a link.