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Jim Helms, dentist with an artistic flair

Fallbrook has an amazing number of highly-regarded professional people, artisans, and community service providers. There is a low-keyed yet dynamic resident, Jim Helms, who combines all of these into one. Further, these are not mere interests to him; they are passions.

Helms was born in Long Beach and grew up in the Palos Verdes area, where he attended Chadwick School. He went on to the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated from Dental School in 1974. During his college years, he met and married Victoria, now his wife of forty years.

Helms’ first exposure to art occurred during his dental studies when he worked in the bookstore of the Los Angeles County Art Museum. After graduation, Helms was a children’s dentist in a small town in Switzerland for 18 months.

In 1975, Helms and Victoria moved to Fallbrook. In 1977, Helms opened his own practice here. It wasn’t until his children were grown that he was able to connect with the art world, but when he did, it was in a big way. In 2000, at age 53, Helms realized that sculpture was his overriding artistic interest and his avocation was launched.

With his keen sense of community, Helms quickly realized that his unique art form could interest others, young and old, in creating and appreciating art. As this idea progressed, it was only natural that he began thinking of ways in which to combine his unique art forms with his humanitarian interests.

Two years ago, the devastating Rice Canyon Fire moved Helms to scavenge the nearly destroyed Valley Oaks Mobile Home Park for scorched bits of aluminum siding, roofing, and other partially melted debris to form a remarkably soft and endearing seven-foot angel. Well-known today as the “Park Angel” sculpture, it was placed for a time at the entrance to the mobile home park, serving to heal and bring hope to victims of the fire.

Helms later cast 70 smaller bas-reliefs of the Park Angel, most of which he sold to create scholarships at the Fallbrook School of the Arts for fire victims and others. Helms is an active member of the Fallbrook Center for the Arts Group and often opens his home, which is a gallery in itself, for benefits for the group.

A recent work of compassion is a life-sized sculpture entitled “Wounded Warrior,” which elicits a form of stark empathy for soldiers who have suffered greatly in recent times of conflict. Also made from scraps of metal from the burned mobile home park, it recently placed second at the 2009 Del Mar Fair Art Show in the category of recycled materials.

Helms can’t say what his next big piece of sculpture will be. One thing is for certain, though, it will not simply be art for art’s sake.

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