The Cork Truck is just one early chapter in Jan Elftmann's colorful career, but it's a memorable start. The 1987 Mazda, resurfaced with over 10,000 corks from wine and champagne bottles, got her national attention on the streets and in the media - including the New York Times and Ripley's Believe it or Not.
More importantly, the Cork Truck and her enthusiasm for "ArtCars" (cars covered with all manner of paint or foreign objects) led to an ongoing career as a curator and organizer. She's led and annual ArtCar parade in Minnesota for several years, but she's also led the charge for using and showing, art of all kinds made from used or castoff materials.
Her devotion to otherwise forgotten stuff is part of a more serious vision, Elftmann is an artist in the schools, regularly visiting classrooms all over the state, and also teaches kids at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Her personal mission, usually involving recycled material instead of paint or pencils, is "working with children before they begin associating art exclusively with the ability to draw a pretty picture." In other words, to address imagination and creativity instead of just "art."
Elftmann's most recent vehicle, her fourth, is the Holey Circle ArtCar, coated with diverse round objects that share that universal, ideal form. She's insisted that anyone could and should be an ArtCar-type person. "From making art to how you live your life, it's all about creativity," she told an interviewer in 2011. "I think in the schools they should stop saying art classes and call them creativity classes."
(And just in case you're wondering, she didn't drink all those bottles of wine. At a bottle a day, it would have taken her 28 years!)