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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 13, 2017, Pages 1 & 9

Entrepreneurship thrives in Benton

It's commonly believed the left side of the human brain is responsible for logic, math, hard facts and organization while the right side processes creativity, art, imagination and intuition.

In most people, one side often dominates the other, but one Ringgold County man seems to somehow thrive in both environments. Add to that a strong talent in entrepreneurship, and you are introduced to Richard Swank, an eclectic mix of landscape painter, commercial accountant, machine operator and visionary thinker.

Swank Art Studio

A life-long love of art recently prompted Swank, 37, of Benton, to take his hobby to the next level. Swank recently incorporated Swank Art Studio and has begun marketing his artwork online via Facebook, Etsy and other outlets. Swank's talent in art has bloomed over the years.

He first remembers showing an interest in art as an elementary student and credits former Mount Ayr High School art teacher John Newton as having a big influence on developing his craft. After graduation from high school, Swank continued his art studies at Southwestern Community College in Creston.

"I've always had a passion for it," he said.

Placing his art on a side burner, Swank graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in accounting and now serves as an accountant with TEK Builders LLC in Mount Ayr.

Over the past several years Swank has become a devotee of the late Bob Ross and his famous "Joy of Painting" instructional series of television programs, books and DVDs. Swank describes Ross' wet-on-wet oil style as "friendly" and adds he can generally begin and finish a painting in a single day.

"Anybody who wants to paint can do it," said Swank, in reference to the Ross style, "but it takes lots of practice."

Swank's basement studio gallery currently displays 10 or so finished works, some of which he has featured on the studio's Facebook page.

"I've had a lot of views," he said, "and some have left [Page 9] comments and shown interest." So far, however, he has sold only one of his finished works.

To spread the word locally, Swank has place advertisements at various locations in Mount Ayr, and he has donated two paintings to an upcoming fundraiser for the American Legion.

Swank said he has hundreds of sample scenes available or customers may customize one of their own. Different custom sizes are also available.

He added he is eager to answer questions and provide a tour of his modest studio.

Plus, Swank Art Studio is still evolving. In the future he said he is considering expanding his art business to include antiques and collectibles, but those plans are yet to be finalized.

Swank Motorsports

In addition to his fledgling art business, Swank has also founded Swank Motorsports, which he formally incorporated in 2016.

Together with his father Lyle (Junior), brother Mike and nephew Matt, Swank owns and operates a pulling sled for use in the popular sport of garden tractor and mini-rod pulling.

"I'm the guy who gets to ride it," said Swank, adding other family members are responsible for maintenance on the sled and hauling it and the scales to the different pulls.

So far Swank Motorsports has worked five or six pulls, and other pulls are scheduled for this summer in northern Missouri and southern Iowa, including the largest area pull held during Diagonal's Labor Day celebration.

The Swanks have been a fixture at the Diagonal pull for over 30 years, the last five as owner/operators of the sled.

In conjunction with Swank Motorsports' growing influence in the world of pulling, Swank said he is attempting to form a regional sanctioning association to standardize rules and regulations across six Midwest states.

With 18 or 19 associations in Missouri, four in Iowa, three in Kansas and another couple in Nebraska, he said, the task to bring everyone together under one governing set of rules is a daunting challenge.

But it's a challenge he not only has accepted but is willing to pursue with the eager tenacity of a true entrepreneur.

[For more information contact Richard Swank, 200 Main St., Benton, (phone number) raswank79@gmail.com or swankartstudio@gmail.com.]

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2017


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