Brethren students learn about creating art with hot metal

BRETHREN — Brethren High School art teacher Amanda Mobley is one of those innovative teachers who really wants her students not only to study art, but to experience it as well.

Artist Theresa Smith talks to students in Amanda Mobley's Intro to Art and Advanced Art Studio class at Brethren High School this week. Smith was brought to the classroom by the Michigan Legacy Art Park to talk with the student about creating sculpture with hot metal. (Courtesy photo)

Artist Theresa Smith talks to students in Amanda Mobley’s Intro to Art and Advanced Art Studio class at Brethren High School this week. Smith was brought to the classroom by the Michigan Legacy Art Park to talk with the student about creating sculpture with hot metal. (Courtesy photo)

Throughout the years Mobley has introduced her students to a variety of exhibits, displays and the opportunity to actually work with artists on projects. By giving them this first-hand view of how an artist thinks and more importantly creates their work is priceless in the learning process. The end result is it heightens the creativity of her students in how they approach art.

On Tuesday afternoon Mobley’s Intro to Art and Advanced Art Studio class were introduced to sculptor Theresa Smith who is a working artist in residence at Cyrstal Mountain Resort’s Legacy Art Park. It was a visit that came about as a direct result of what Mobley’s classes at Brethren High School have done in the past with Legacy Art Park.

“Theresa’s visit was set up through Patricia Innes who is the education director for the park,” said Mobley. “She had contacted me in July about the opportunity to have Ms. Smith come into a couple of my classes as part of her residency at the at the art park.

Mobley knew from past experiences in working with Innes on a variety of projects that what she brought to her classroom would be first-rate in all areas.

“I worked worked with Patricia and several other artists from Michigan Legacy Art Park a few years back as part of an artist residency program at Brethren High School with great results, so I was eager to do it again,” said Mobley.

Smith’s artwork features the use of iron in her creations and she explained to the students how the process works.

“She demonstrated to the students the process of how an iron pour happens using a specially made refractory oven and explained the materials were used to heat the iron up to it’s melting point of 2,200 degrees fahrenheit,” said Mobley.

From that point Smith went on to show the students how pre-made sand and resin molds are used to create their designs. She showed the process of carving down the mold to create different levels that will be reversed in the final piece.

Mobley said the students were totally engaged and hung on every word, but more importantly it was an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day.

“The kids were a fantastic audience and remained engaged and interested until the end of her demonstration,” said Mobley. “Having a working artist who makes a living for her art processes extends the learning experience even deeper. Since sculptural supplies are often more expensive than a typical arts program budget, opportunities to work with sculptors are even more valuable.”

However, Mobley said the prospect of what comes next has the students excited.

“For the next week or so the students will work on their sand and resin designs that Theresa provided us in class,” said Mobley.

The artistic creativity will also play a big role in the project. She said it will also take a steady hand and the perfect touch to make their molds viable for receiving the liquid metal.

“They are going to use a variety of hard metal tools such as old silverware, nails, and metal loop tools to carve their designs into the mold,” Mobley said. “They have to pay specific attention to the depth of the piece because if they go too deep in the molds they could crack or split when the hot iron is poured into them. Paying special attention to the thickness of their lines is also vital in how the metal will interact with the mold.”

The exciting part then comes once the molds are completed because that is when they will go to Michigan Legacy Art Park where they will be filled with hot metal melted in a special furnace. Brethren art students will be joining four other schools at that time and they will all be coming back with their finished iron trivets.

“I am excited to see what the students come up with for their designs and how they turn out,” said Mobley. “As with any art medium you never know how it will turn out until it’s all done.”

Mobley said the opportunity is priceless and best of all comes at no cost to the district.

“This is all possible because of Michigan Legacy Art Park’s education director (Innes) and grants the art park has received for the purpose of being a partner in education,” said Mobley. “They also provide grants for schools to make field trips to the park.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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