There are cranes in the air and condo projects going up — miniature ones, against the backdrop of steel mills and artist colonies, TH&B and GO train cars and a host of wild inclusions in artist Kim Adams' Breugel-Bosch Bus at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Now in his 60s, Adams has been working on the engrossing sculpture for nearly 20 years. A plaque in the gallery says: "1997-ongoing."

'It's a beast and you have to keep feeding it.' - Kim Adams

The piece is a '60s-era, split-window Volkswagen bus with an explosion of buildings and fast food joints and model trains and cartoon character figurines spilling from its every orifice. 

The bus wasn't built initially for Hamilton, but it's become a centrepiece of the museum's collection. It's not explicitly about Hamilton, either, but the parallels are there. Steel mills, rocky escarpment-like features made from cork, and even condos dot the Bruegel-Bosch Bus landscape alongside Tweety Bird and Elvis.

Those who've seen it likely know the feeling that you could spend hours looking at its every tiny scenario. And if you find the sculpture engrossing, just try spending an afternoon with its mastermind.

Kim Adams

Adams tinkers with a new building. He glued the tiny workers atop the building along with their even tinier tools. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

This was one of the weeks when that ongoing work goes on.

Adams came in last week from Toronto with a McDonald's to cram under a highway, a new waterway, a truck accident to pose.

"It's a beast and you have to keep feeding it, otherwise it bites back," he said. "It really pushes to keep going. It's just something that can never be finished."

He's added a complement of brick-layers, and workers with tools on the condos. 

He brought boxes of things he hoped to find places for in his massive, evolving piece. He does plan before he comes, but the muse changes when he's in the room with it.

"I think the older I'm getting with it, the more I just let it say what it wants, itself," he said.

Kim Adams

Adams said unless he knows the seller or the company, he has to see every piece or model himself before he'll buy it to add to the sculpture. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Where something should go – that seems to be something that lives in only one man's mind.

"I made things over the years, and I thought, 'Oh, that's going to be perfect there,' and then I bring it and it doesn't work," he said. "But it goes somewhere else. Better. You can't predict it."

Gentrification on the Bruegel-Bosch Bus

These days, Adams stays in the Staybridge Suites or the Homewood Suites while he's working on the piece.

Last year, he was in town working while crews worked on the skeleton of the new McMaster University health sciences building on Main Street. Hamilton's evolution and the draw it's become for artists intrigues him.

Kim Adams

Adams has been in Hamilton for a few days this week to work on his sculpture. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The piece was not initially conceived for Hamilton, but it's been growing to reflect it. The sculpture sits in an atrium specially built for it, with a view of city hall, that new McMaster building and cranes in the air for condos at 150 Main Street.

Around the corner, on the piece, there's an artist colony in the shadow of the steel mills – "where all the artists are still living in the warehouses."

So they haven't been gentrified out?

"I'll show you," he said. It's starting."

"This is the kind of spaces that we had when we were younger. And that already is being torn down – they got kicked out of there and they put up a condo, so.

"It happens everywhere."

Kim Adams

A crane is in the air on the Bruegel-Bosch Bus inside the Art Gallery of Hamilton, just down the street from cranes in the air in real life at the Royal Connaught and the condos at 150 Main. (Kelly Bennett/CBC) | @kellyrbennett