by Zacch Estrada-Petersen



CORNELIUS – Tucked away in a nondescript business park just minutes from Lake Norman, it’s hard to tell that hiding inside 11138 Treynorth Drive is a treasure of monumental proportions. It’s the workshop and gallery of one of Cornelius’ own hidden treasures – Jon Hair, official sculptor of the U.S. Olympic Team and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Painted in large blue letters on the wall inside his 7,500-square-foot studio is an Alfred North quote: “Art flourishes where there is a sense of adventure.” In his 62 years, Hair’s life has been quite the adventure.

“I’ve been an artist for as far back as I can remember,” he said. “I can’t remember ever not being one.

Hair’s foray into the arts came in multiple forms, however. He was a highly sought-after drummer in his youth; jamming with Jimi Hendrix, recording with Simon & Garfunkel, and turning down stints with Little Richard and The Isley Brothers. However in the late 1960s, following the dissolution of his own band, The Clefs of Lavender Hill, he sought a different creative outlet for his artistic talents.

“That whole thing with the band breaking up really kind of turned me off to the whole music business thing,” he said.

After years of working as an art director and running a graphic design business, the Ohio native began doing art shows in Florida during the winter to escape to cold weather when another opportunity presented itself.

“I was driving from Naples, Fla., to my next art show in Ft. Lauderdale, when I saw this big Indian casino going up,” he recalled. “And I said to myself: ‘They need a sculpture.’”

It was a Monday. As he walked in to the casino, his initial request to see the casino’s chairman was denied, but he was undeterred.  The Ft. Lauderdale show wasn’t for several more days, so he had some time to kill.

He got a room at a local “fleabag” motel, as he calls it, and returned to the casino day after day hoping to secure a meeting. By 4:45 p.m. that Friday, the chairman finally agreed to see him. The following Monday, Hair returned to the chairman’s office with eight copies of a detailed, 12-page proposal. He left that day with a check for $115,000 and his first monumental commission. He hasn’t looked back since.

Now, 12 years and more than 40 sculptures later, he’s been billed as “America’s most highly commissioned monumental sculptor.” Yet despite all of his international success, Hair still has one lingering frustration – he seems to get the least amount of public support right here at home.

Hair said several talks over the years with various town officials to display his sculptures have been fruitless.

“Cornelius isn’t really interested in doing anything,” he said. “My sculptures are bronze and stainless steel, and they’re gonna be here for thousands of years. So before it’s all over with, I’m gonna find a city that’s gonna step up to the plate, put in a major tourist attraction and reap the rewards of it from now until eternity.”

For more information about Jon Hair, visit www.jonhair.com.

Know an Olympian?

Lake Norman Publications is highlighting Olympians – past and present – and others involved in the summer games. Send tips to news@huntersvilleherald.com.