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Buffalo State Iron Pour for Haiti

Kenneth Payne, head of the sculpture department at Buffalo State College, along with assistant professor Elena Lourenco conceived the idea to host an iron pour event at the college serving as a fundraiser for Haiti.

“We were affected by the earthquake and what has happened to all those people,” said Payne. “We wanted to do something to help out and we thought it was a really good idea to get the students involved in that effort as well.”   

Known for its iron casting program, the department holds two major iron pours per year. People from all over the nation come to witness this grand display of molten iron as it’s casted into different configurations.

“There are a lot of very strong pyrotechnic visuals that are involved,” said Payne.

This time around they will be casting sand moulds, which can be purchased by anyone, all the money going towards the Haitian relief effort.

First of all, the artists need to collect the scrap iron necessary used to melt for the event. Typically they use objects like cast iron radiators or bathtubs – the class is looking for anyone who may want to get rid of items such as these, as they are willing to pick them up.

After gathering up the iron pieces, they continue to break them down by using sledgehammers and smaller hammers to prepare them to be inserted into the Cupola furnace, which is fueled by coke, at a temperature between 2500 and 3000 degrees. The furnace itself takes about an hour and a half to heat up. Once the furnace is ready it will produce about 150 pounds of iron every ten minutes.

During this time people will be able to carve symbols, their name, or whatever other designs they wish into the small recessed areas in the middle of the moulds with filing tools. Volunteers will be standing by to assist people with the carving process as well.

After the carving is finished, the sand moulds will be cast as the iron is dispensed out of the furnace. As soon as the moulds are dry people will be able to take their ironclad masterpieces of art home with them to keep for themselves or to possibly give as gifts.

“One of the big questions we always have at these events is what’s being cast,” said Payne. “On another level, this gives the viewers more of a connection to the event that they’re witnessing.”     

In the past Payne has held fundraisers for other people, playing up the ‘performative’ aspects of using iron, incorporating unique substances with it, like gunpowder and magnesium used to cast directly into blocks of ice.

He has traveled far and wide with art students from Buffalo State College to Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, North Carolina, and even Finland, England, and Hungary partaking in iron casting events.

“We always find exhibition venues where our students can work overseas,” said Payne. “Our students make works in these various places and we exhibit it as well.”

There are three sizes of moulds available for purchase, including small ($10), medium ($15), and large ($20), the smallest size being 6 by 8 inches.

The family-friendly event, located outside of Upton Hall at Buffalo State College, will begin Saturday April 10th at 9 AM and goes until about 6 PM.

Iron pour photo: Mollie Atkinson

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