Before fields turn ablaze with poppies and daffodils, a somewhat different rite of spring fills the air outside the Arts Building. This one is all about heat: flying sparks, glowing embers and flowing iron.
A warm early spring evening greeted this year’s live iron pour, which was part of the fifth annual Iron Art Festival put on by sculpture students, alumni and faculty in the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Arts and Media. A large crowd gathered around the courtyard at dusk on Friday to watch about 35 artists melt iron in cupolas then pour the metal upon bonded sand molds to create low-relief iron casts.
The event, accompanied by a CU Denver student band performing an eerie background wall of sound, gets started with artists pouring metal onto open-face bonded sand molds made by members of the community. Then, as more iron scraps are fed into the two cupolas, and the suns dips below the foothills, the leather-coat and helmet-wearing crew moves onto the main show: using the tall lever to pour molten iron upon the taller molds. That’s when a burst of fire is followed by a shower of sparks, and finally just the tower mold being licked by flames.
Kerrane said her iron casting students own the Iron Art Festival. “They are able to take charge of it and be professional,” she said. “They are making their own artwork, but they’re also engaging with the public and the community and getting respect for that.”
Lobdell said he’s enjoyed getting to know CU Denver students and alumni over the years. He and Kerrane are members of the Western Cast Iron Alliance, which holds iron casting events across the West. “We’re always bringing new people to this medium,” he said. “We’re kind of spreading the poison.”
Kerrane said her students will also run an iron pour at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in October. In conjunction, the center will host an invitational curated show, “Fired,” featuring iron sculpture.
“These events instill a sense of confidence and pride in what the students are doing,” Kerrane said. “We take what we do in the classroom and make it public. It just has to be shared.”