ENID, Okla. — An educator
The art project began about two and a half years ago, when someone said they didn’t know who Garriott was. Others said they thought he was a politician; one person was sure he was a former mayor, The Builder said.
He saw an opportunity to educate the public, albeit in a passive way. His first nighttime run saw seven broad sheets of paper stenciled with a flattened, black and white image of Garriott’s official NASA photo. They went up on signal boxes along the astronaut’s namesake road.
On that first night, and on his last poster, The Builder saw a man staring at him from a nearby intersection. The Builder finished his work and the man came tearing through the parking lot. He got out of his car, showed a police badge and demanded to know what the artist was doing.
“I’m telling people about the history of Enid,” he replied.
The Builder got out of the incident without a ticket, but with a tacit threat to avoid leaving permanent art on city property.
“The cop said it to me, but I knew in the back of my head I could take it down,” The Builder said.
Critics and artists
He’s faced some criticism from the public about the art, even though all but two of his remaining stencils washed away with rain or were pulled down by zealous fans. He’s puzzled about those two posters along Garriott that still haven’t disappeared.
Some call his art graffiti, a label he vehemently opposes.
“A lot of people miss the point right away,” he said. “I’m not just some punk kid.”
His art draws allusions to the works of Banksy, an English artist who spray-paints poignant and sometimes harsh messages on walls around the world.
“I hate being called Enid’s Banksy,” he said, shunning the political statements.
The art is a reflection of his love. With each magnet and stencil, the Enid Lego Builder hopes to inspire that love of the city in others.
“Mainly, I did it for public awareness. It frustrated me that people complained in this town that there’s nothing to do,” he said. “This town is a diamond surrounded by wheat.”
Guerrilla street art seems more fit for a major metropolitan downtown, which lends credibility to the public’s surprise of The Builder’s project — Enid is known more for its agriculture and aviation history than for its creative class.
“I hate to say it, but Enid’s not the culture club of Oklahoma. But there is an aspiring art movement here in town,” he said.
The Art Lab, The Felt Bird and Privation Printing all have captured a part of the Enid Lego Builder craze, and have helped push the art out to the public. There are keychains (currently sold out) and T-shirts of the ELB image.
Here in the plains of western Oklahoma, The Builder’s popularity shuns the stereotype that an artistic Generation X-er or Millennial can only operate in friendly territory, and that only those accustomed to street art can truly appreciate it.
“I don’t think people thought that there’d be a person in their town, sitting in their studio, making Lego-man heads one afternoon for people to go hunt,” he said.