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This past month has been a period of great activity in the West Virginia cast iron community. Shepherd University hosted their fall iron pour early in November and a week later, the sculpture program at West Virginia University hosted our fall iron pour. I am pleased that Shepherd University sculpture coordinator Christian Benefiel, Fairmont State University sculpture coordinator Jeremy Entwistle, and myself have continued to collaborate and get our student involved to make these events run in a safe and efficient manner. The palpable teamwork and camaraderie exhibited by all participants has affirmed my belief that a vibrant cast iron community is emerging in our state. Here’s some images and videos from our events, big thanks goes out to students Violet Goode and Hannah Hicks for documenting our iron pour at WVU.

By far my favorite project from the past year was our Fall 2013 Iron Pour. Held on Friday, November 8, at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, this event helped inaugurate “Sputnik”, a portable iron-casting furnace that Fairmont State University sculpture faculty Jeremy Entwistle and I began building over the summer. Our pour crews cast around 3000 pounds of iron over the course of the day, which exceeded expectations for the capacity and durability of this new furnace. We also had excellent media coverage and a healthy turnout from the public, all of which contributed to making this event a resounding success.

Jeremy and I and students from our respective programs were joined by Shepherd University sculpture faculty Christian Benefiel and his students, as well as friends from the Pittsburgh iron casting community. In addition, alumni Emily Walley, Brett Kern, Jennifer Rockage McGhee, and Jamie Lester were invited to be visiting artists for the event, all of who cast iron for the first time.

Local businesses, including Construction Supply Company (CSC), 3 Rivers Iron and Metal, and Jack’s Recycling generously contributed materials and supplies for the iron pour. In addition, local metal fabrication company Wilson Works gave us great technical support by cutting out precision parts for “Sputnik”, and Morgantown restaurant Atomic Grill provided catered food for the event.

Big thanks goes out to Daniela Londoño Bernal for photographing this event, as well as Glynis Board from West Virginia Public Broadcasting for her excellent radio segment, which can be found here. The radio story also included a short video documenting the pour, which is linked below.

This past weekend, my colleague Jeremy Entwistle and I took students from our respective sculpture programs at Fairmont State University and West Virginia University to Salem, New York, for the 7th Annual Intercollegiate Iron Pour at Salem Art Works (SAW). We were invited to SAW by their Foundry Director Michael “Bones” Bonadio, who was a visiting artist for our sculpture programs last spring. The weather all weekend was spectacular, there was a great spirit of camaraderie, and we had the distinction of traveling the farthest of any schools in attendance, all of which contributed to making this a worthwhile journey. Besides the iron pour, other highlights of this event included a Friday night pyrotechnic performance, The Temporally Coincident Occurences of Causal Events, by New England Sculpture Service Manager of Operations Marjee Levine and students from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, an inspiring guest lecture by veteran iron artist Joe McCreary, and some terrific exhibitions of artworks created by both emerging artists and iron pour attendees.

Just before Thanksgiving break, I attended the Nor’Easter Conference on Aesthetics and Practice in Cast Iron Art in Buffalo, New York. At the conference, artists Kurt Dyrhaug, Jeremy Entwistle, and myself had an excellent time presenting our panel discussion Collaborative Venture:  Foundry Practice in the Age of Austerity. Besides other great panel discussions, this conference featured distinguished guest speakers, outstanding contemporary art exhibitions, and some truly impressive cupola furnaces, all of which left me looking forward to the next meeting of iron casting artists.

Last Friday, I took part in a collaborative iron pour with my sculpture students and Jeremy Entwistle’s sculpture students from the Fairmont State University Department of Art . This was my first time casting iron, and I was truly amazed at the way this process requires such intense teamwork and collaboration. We had excellent weather, there was great camaraderie among all participants, and everything went off without a hitch, so I definitely anticipate more collaborative iron casting in the near future.

More good news…this November, I will be participating in a panel discussion at the Nor’Easter Conference, Aesthetic and Practice in Cast Iron Art in Buffalo, New York. My colleague Jeremy Entwistle and I will be speaking about the collaborative foundry experience between our respective sculpture programs at Fairmont State University and West Virginia University. This conference has an amazing slate of speakers, artwork, and demonstrations, so we are truly honored to be a part of it.