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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.

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Looking back on 2013, I think the most challenging yet enjoyable project I took part in was the Morgantown Tree by artist Carol Hummel.

The School of Art and Design at West Virginia University invited Hummel to be a visiting artist for the 2013-2014 academic year. In addition to having a gallery exhibition, she put forth a proposal to work with students and community members to cover a large tree on our Evansdale Campus with crocheted yarn. Hummel has an impressive record of creating similar crocheted installations in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Drangedal, Norway and New Delhi, India, so I thought it would be quite a coup for her to create a project in Morgantown.

Once Hummel’s project was approved, a workforce had to be organized to make all the crocheted elements. I served as Hummel’s de facto project manager, helping her coordinate with the university and community groups involved in the installation. Because this was a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity, we decided early on that our sculpture students would assist Hummel. Members of the Morgantown community, including campus knitting groups and residents at The Village at Heritage Point (a senior retirement community), also made invaluable contributions to this project. There was palpable synergy among all participants, and due to excellent teamwork and a stretch of great weather, the installation was finished in only six days.

The Morgantown Tree was created in conjunction with Morgantown’s 2013 celebration of The Year of the Tree (YOTT). By choosing a prominent location for this installation, Hummel’s project enjoyed high visibility for both on-and off-campus populations. She used an open stitch for this installation, which allows the trees to breathe without damaging their growth, and her chosen synthetic yarn will hold its color well for the next several years.