Copper artist’s best work is close to home

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2001

Copper artist Joel Misita’s greatest work just might turn out to be his own house.

Misita has spent the last two years fashioning items out of copper, including an awning for Callon Building and lanterns for downtown businesses.

&uot;I started with one job and it just kind of grew from there,&uot;&160;said Misita.

But on Friday, Misita saw his biggest project come to fruition when a copper cupola he made himself was placed on top of the frame of what will one day be his new house.

The square, windowed cupola features elephant heads made of hammered copper and a large copper weathervane complete with windmill.

A blue glass sphere at the bottom of the cupola’s lightning rod was made by an artist in New Orleans; the glass box on which the weathervane sits came from the old Natchez Waterworks building.

It is clearly Misita’s most elaborate work – but the project isn’t finished yet. A structure of steel beams, topped with the cupola, sits on top of a metal barn that serves as Misita’s shop.

And when the structure is enclosed with boards he salvaged from old buildings in Crosby and Chicago, it will be a two-story, 2,000-square-foot loft house on top of the barn.

&uot;I always wanted to live on top of a barn,&uot; said Misita, who has already spent about one year on the project and now lives in an Airstream trailer parked in the barn.

The cupola was hoisted to the top of the structure using a crane equipped with reinforced steel ropes, and crews began to weld it in place. Misita’s mother, Donna Misita, and other relatives, neighbors and friends watched from the ground.

&uot;I don’t know where he gets it from – it wasn’t from me,&uot;&160;she said, shaking her head. &uot;It took me a while to realize that he can envision how these things are going to be.&uot;

Indeed, Joel Misita said the plans for his house are still only in his head. He does not know when the project will be complete, only that he will now halt it until he can earn enough money to undertake the final phase.

But watching the cupola being fastened in place, he could not help but smile.

&uot;This feels great,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;It’s really coming together.&uot;