2008 Western Cast Iron Art Conference in Denver, CO

cast iron expert mary neubauer  The WCIAA’S first conference in Denver was a wonder, and sculptors, scholars and students came in from all over the US. CU Denver’s Rian Kerrane hosted the inaugural event, which set the tone for future conferences with notable speakers, process demos, cupola competitions, and several exhibitions. Keynote speaker Wayne Potratz (Univ of Minnesota) was featured in a lineup that included a range of prominent figures like Mary Neubauer (from Arizona State, pictured). A range of workshops introduced both basic techniques and cutting-edge processes, so both newcomers and leathery iron sculpture veterans found a lot to learn and discuss.

Bowling with red-hot iron balls.

The performance pour included Lance Wadlow’s flaming aeroplane crash, bowling with red-hot metal spheres, and a variety of other flaming, hissing spectacles. Students from several institutions arrived with newly built iron cupolas and competed head-to-head for trophies and glory.Students got to see peers and make new friends from sculpture programs throughout the Western US. Iron exhibitions at DAVA, Edge Gallery, and TAXI featured conference participants, so openings and parties were almost continuous.

Patina Demo with David Lobdell
David Lobdell’s patina demo

The success of this first conference was partly because of the hard-won organizational experience of WCIAA founding member David Lobdell, whose Iron Tribe events at New Mexico Highlands University attract sculptors from throughout the country for metal play and green chile every year.

James Hayes  and Rian Kerrane, cast iron sculptors
Irish Iron: James Hayes from Cork and 2008 host Rian Kerrane

Participants came from all over the world, with substantial herds of students arriving from prominent cast iron sculpture programs throughout the region. Programs that brought cupolas for competition included the University of Montana, New Mexico Highlands University, and, of course, CU Denver. “Iron Trail to the Arctic,” a posse of adventurous Texans, arrived in Denver on their way to bring cowpoke vagabond iron pour culture to the frozen north.

Jerry Dumlao with Mike Feeney
Jerry Dumlao breaks out the core with Mike Feeney

Jerry Dumlao was in attendance, pouring ambitious new work, and several generations of iron sculptors crossed paths and compared notes as they worked together charging cupolas, playing with fire, and having a look at the hundreds of newly cast pieces strewn about the conference grounds.

Eric Johnson, sculptor at Denver cast iron conference.
Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson (RIP) was there, and he’s sorely missed by the cast iron community.

On the whole, it was a huge success. Fun was had by all, friendships were established and renewed, sweat streamed, and notable works of cast iron sculpture were poured .  An excellent launch for the ongoing, itinerant biennial Western Cast Iron Art Conference.  Look forward to seeing you at the next one.