A 1970 graduate of Columbian High School has returned to Tiffin to donate one of his pieces of neon artwork.
Neon artist Michael R. Flechtner, 61, now resides in Van Nuys, Calif. He spent his young life drawing, writing and creating.
"It's always been there," Flechtner said of wanting to be an artist.
Flechtner earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture from Columbus College of Art and Design and a master's of fine arts in sculpture from Wichita State University.
After visiting a friend in California, he came across the Museum of Neon Art and had an "a-ha" moment.
Flechtner said, "I had found my people."
He worked at a commercial sign shop called Golden State Neon, where he made neon signs during the day and worked on his own pieces at night.
"I loved the basic process of going into the fire with the glass and making the bend," Flechtner said, "The creative process of taking an idea of something intangible and bringing it to reality is very satisfying."
Flechtner has had his work in exhibits in Japan and Taiwan.
His favorite pieces, he said, is a toss up between "Either Oracle" and "None of Your Beeswax."
The donated piece, "JoGo," which means funnel in Japanese, is to be installed Friday in Columbian's cafeteria.
"It is a piece that is nice to look at and is open to interpretation - it allows people to ask questions," Flechtner said.
One of his most well-known works is the neon U.S. postage stamp "Celebrate!" that is used nationwide.
Mayor Aaron Montz, stating the city is proud of the artist's accomplishments, declared Monday as "Michael 'Mike' Flechtner Day" in Tiffin.
"It was really amazing, thrilling and unreal," Flechtner said.
All week, Flechtner will be meeting with art students at the high school and Tiffin University to discuss his artwork and how he became an artist.
"I want to give the example that you can come from a small town and pursue your dream," Flechtner said.
In a world with "nay-sayers" and people telling him he wouldn't be able to accomplish his dream, Flechtner just kept doing what he loved.
"I kept at it because I love doing it. I had the attitude that as long as I tried I would prevail and I have been very fortunate," he said.