Industrial Arts; Masterpieces Made from Scrap

Article excerpt

Byline: Sterling Meyers, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

University of Maryland professor John Ruppert presented his art students with blowtorches, scrap metal and giant molds - supplies to create sculptures sometimes too big and too earthy for the indoors. Mr. Ruppert and the other artists wore leather bibs, plastic helmets and face shields while pouring molten metal into molds on Saturday. "We all look like evil warriors," he said.

He told these "industrial" artists: "If anyone wants to participate in the iron pour, they have to come with their own iron."

Students brought broken radiators and other scraps on campus to shovel into furnaces that are fueled by processed coal and reach temperatures of 3200 degrees.

Once a semester, Mr. Ruppert and professor Steve Jones bring together students, professors and enthusiasts to pool their talents.

"It takes a lot of human effort," Mr. Ruppert said. "It's a community-building event because everyone works together."

He said the group poured 20 to 30 molds weighing from 10 to 1,000 pounds. Almost 60 spectators and participants were at the sculpture yard during the daylong event.

Mr. Ruppert, chairman of the university's art department, and students in his metal-casting class prepared a week in advance. The students learn to build molds out of sand and to cast objects from materials such as aluminum, bronze, iron and copper.

Artists occasionally break out a piece of the mold and are surprised with the hardened result, Mr. Ruppert said. …