Theresa Smith with Students

Artist Residency Makes Broad Impact on Area Students

Theresa Smith’s residency at the Art Park this fall was a wonderful demonstration of how various components of our mission can be integrated into a single program. Her six weeks not only included the opportunity for the artist, but also an incredible education experience and a community event.

Theresa Smith Teaching at Brethren

Theresa Smith demonstrates how her furnace works.

Early on in talks with Theresa about her potential residency, our Artistic Director Kaz McCue (who has a strong education background) recognized Theresa’s iron casting would be an excellent way to introduce high school students to that process.

Helpful student carrying scratch blocks

A helpful students carries a stack of scratch blocks

After working with Kaz to create over 150 “scratch block” molds, Theresa visited five area high school art classes for workshops, including Brethren, Frankfort, Kingsley, Mesick and the Leelanau School.. She was able to teach the students about the iron casting process, its history (dating back centuries for both art and industry) and the science behind it.

The students then used simple, small tools to scratch their own designs into the sand scratch molds.

This program was an impactful enrichment activity for my students because it connected art, history, career opportunities and so much more. The excitement and joy of artistic creation on the students’ faces was vitalizing. Kristine Harvey, Frankfort-Elberta Public Schools

In the weeks following, Theresa worked on her own pieces in the Art Park. She spent time experimenting with creating molds from natural objects found in the forest and preparing all her tools and materials to actually melt down and pour the iron into the molds.

Theresa Smith creating molds in the forest

The artist experimenting with molds in nature

This all lead up to a public “iron pour” event at Crystal Mountain. It was great to see many people from the community come see this dynamic process in action, and dozens of volunteers were also on hand to make the day successful–helping with everything from prep, pouring and breaking away the molds once they were cast.

Pouring iron into scratch molds

The iron is poured into the student’s scratch molds

To bring the program into full circle, all the students who participated in Theresa’s workshops were able to attend the event that day to witness their own scratch blocks being poured with the molten iron. Several of the classes included a visit to the Art Park to enjoy a good hike and see the sculptures in our collection, and the experience was an opportunity to create the sort of lasting impact possible at Michigan Legacy Art Park.

Iron pour ladle

A ladle is used to transfer hot iron from the furnace into the molds

To experience a type of art that they would never be able to do in a traditional classroom setting–first-hand with an artist visiting–and then see the process themselves provided an experience that they will never forget. Susan Graham, Kingsley High School

Brethren students with iron tiles
Student with the iron tile she created

A iron tile created by student

A iron tile created by student

A iron tile created by student

Student iron tiles

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