Sparks are flying in Peoria, thanks to a new art foundry that offers the public a chance to try the ancient art of metal casting through classes, workshops and community iron pours.
Owned by artists Jam Lovell and Danny Rohr, Black Dog Metal Arts will be hosting Peoria’s first all-female public iron pour on Nov. 2 at the Peoria Art Guild as part of the Citywide Celebration of Women in the Arts. Local female-identified artists will team up with women iron casters from around the country to pour thousands of pounds of molten hot iron.
“An iron pour is the most exciting thing in the world and my favorite thing to do,” said Lovell, who started the art foundry this year with Rohr, her fiancé. “I kind of compare it to seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July, but it’s even more exciting because you’re not only seeing fire shooting up in the air, you also get to see molten metal coming right out of a furnace into a ladle and then poured straight into some artwork right in front of you.”
The family-friendly event will take place from 12 to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Peoria Art Guild at 203 Harrison St. The iron pour is free to watch or $25 to participate. Part of the registration fee will go toward the Art Guild for hosting the event and part will go toward purchasing safety gear and materials.
“Any woman can register to participate. They don’t need experience. That’s why
I’m bringing in experts from all around the world,” Lovell said.
While an average pour takes about 10 people, Lovell has 45 registered so far, coming from as far away as New Zealand. “I have a couple of people signed up who are not experienced, and a few who want to be involved but are worried they can’t lift heavy objects, so I’m still finding ways for them to be involved with the pour without having to strain themselves,” she added.
Help is also needed selling T-shirts and scratch blocks, which are resin-bonded sand mold blocks on which people can scratch an image. Iron is then poured into the cavity of the scratch block, creating a handmade cast iron plaque souvenir. Available in various sizes and shapes, the blocks will range in price from $25 to $50.
In addition to the iron pour, Lovell, who’s also the gallery curator at Illinois Central College, and Kristen Tordella-Williams, assistant professor of art at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., are co-curating a Women in Iron exhibition at the Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria throughout November. An opening reception will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 1. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
Lovell and Rohr met while earning master’s degrees in art at Eastern Illinois University, then each went on to receive a master of fine arts at Southern Illinois University last year, which is where their interest in iron casting developed.
“That’s when we both did our first iron pour, and we were both just really excited about it,” Lovell said. “There’s an entire community of iron casters all around the world that are really supportive and welcoming people.”
As a native Peorian, Lovell saw how the Peoria arts scene was thriving and pitched the idea to Rohr of starting an art foundry here.
“A common misconception is that because Danny and I are young, (people think) we’re students or that we have mentors in Peoria that are guiding us. But the fact is, we are experts in our field and contribute our skill and knowledge to the community of iron casters across the country, whom we continually learn from,” Lovell said.
“There isn’t anyone else in this area that does iron casting, which is part of our drive to share the process with the public and offer opportunities to anyone to get involved,” she added. “We love this city, and we want to show how much Peoria cares about art to artists from around the world, while reciprocally, we want to show Peoria how incredible the iron community is as, well.”
Black Dog Metal Arts currently offers a bowl casting class, body casting workshop and small sculpture workshop, which range in price from $50 to $100. They also plan to start offering aluminum casting classes in the spring.
“We’re mostly getting people in the bowl carving class, and we’ve had a lot of families come for the body casting workshop,” Lovell said. “Pretty much anyone can do it, but you have to be able to sit still for 10 minutes without moving.”
A different kind of sparks will be flying for the couple just before the historic all-female iron pour when the two get married on Halloween.
“We’re getting married and then we have the reception for the exhibition and then we have the iron pour,” Lovell said with a chuckle. “But it’s our favorite thing to do, so that’s the perfect honeymoon.”
For more information about Black Dog Metal Arts, visit the company’s Facebook page or website at www.blackdogmetalarts.com or call 309-369-8616.
The Citywide Celebration of Women in the Arts is a biennial initiative of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois and will run through the month of November. Events will take place at 25 venues, including fine art exhibits, musical and theatrical performances, literary events, glass-blowing demonstrations, studio tours, lectures, seminars and open mic nights.
In addition to the all-female iron pour, another featured event is the Midwest Women Artists Symposium organized by the Illinois Women Artists Project that will take place Nov. 7-8 at Bradley University.
CCWA chair Kristan McKinsey said the month-long event “provides an important opportunity for the public to appreciate and recognize the tremendous talents and contributions of female artists in central Illinois and beyond.”
For a full list of CCWA events, exhibitions and performances, visit www.artspartners.net/ccwa. For more information, call 309-676-2787.