To commemorate the opening of this year’s sculpture exhibition, the museum invited a team of metal workers from Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham to bring a portable furnace to create metal art designed by event participants.
Music, food, and drinks were also provided to guests as they viewed the new sculptures.
“[The iron pouring] is demonstrating one of the ways you can create sculpture,” said Charlotte Hendrix, communication specialist for the museum. "Participants will be able to take their work with them.”
A crew from Sloss Furnaces arrived at the museum 10 a.m. Friday morning to set up the cupola. Marshall Christie, leading senior artist in residence at Sloss Furnaces, said it took around an hour and a half to set up the small foundry. The set-up included the furnace, racks for holding hot materials, a water tub for cooling the metal, and various tools for handling molten iron. Sand was laid out underneath to protect the grass.
“[Temperature] varies within the cupola, but at its melt point, at its highest temperature, it’s about three-thousand degrees, and the iron that’s coming out typically on that cupula is going to be about twenty-three hundred degrees,” Christie said.
After the cupola reached a high enough temperature, 90 lbs. of recycled cast iron was placed inside with coke. After approximately 13 minutes, the molten iron was collected and then poured into sandstone molds by a ladle handled by two men.
The sandstone molds were carved out by people who came to the event at 4 p.m. and after. Adults, teenagers and students participated, taking around 40 minutes for most to finish their molds.
“I put in a lot of effort, about forty minutes worth of effort,” said freshman Beth-Ann Burford, “I’m hoping it’s going to be good.”
Christopher McNulty, a professor at Auburn’s art department, came with some of his students to make iron artwork.
“It’s a chance for them to get a taste for the foundry process,” McNulty said, “[mold carving] is a bridge between drawing and sculpture in a way.”
The Boys and Girls Club also brought kids to create iron art. They were invited as a part of the museum’s program to encourage kids to learn more about art.
The museum itself opened at 6 p.m. for the official reveal of its latest art exhibition, “Out of the Box: a Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition.” The statues of the exhibit are placed around the museum's grounds.
“We’re just so delighted to have them as part of our grounds, many people use this as a place to relax and recharge, to walk their dogs,” Hendrix said, “It’s a way that we can have public art on view outside of the museum, so you can have a different kind of encounter, when a painting is on a wall it’s a very different experience than looking at a piece of sculpture.”
Andy Tennant, the museum’s assistant director, said that they had spent almost a year preparing for this exhibition. Tennant said artists from across the country applied to have their sculptures as a part of the display.
New York artist Jean Shin and curators from the museum choose eleven sculptures to be displayed.
“Floating Identity in Auburn” is a sculpture by Hye Yeon Nam. The sculpture has a lever at the front that viewers can use to change the face’s expression.
As a part of the exhibition, Jean Shin has the sculpture, “MAiZE” inside of the museum. The piece is a corn maze made of hundreds of recycled plastic soda bottles. The sculpture was created to remind viewers about how much soda is consumed and thrown away in the United States.
The artwork “Self Portrait as Bunnies (the Bathers)” was returned to the pond, for the evening, for guests to enjoy.
The Stephen Lee Band played on the back patio of the museum where complimentary wine and Hors d'oeuvres were provided for guests. Red Clay Brewing Company provided sample beer.
Lights were strung in trees along the walkway around the pond, and candlelight tables were placed along the path for guests strolling and viewing the sculptures.
“We like the support the arts,” said Robin Duke, guest of the event. “It’s kind of fun to have the beer and the food tasting with the art.”