International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art
Iron casting made its debut in the academic environment in the early 1960s, inaugurated by Julius Schmidt who was teaching at Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Detroit. He began searching local commercial foundries for technical support, and through cooperation with industry he learned how to build and operate a furnace suitable for the needs of a sculptor. The idea behind the conference was conceived by Professors Wayne Potratz, University of Minnesota; Thom Gipe, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville; Cliff Prokop, Keystone College, La Plume, Pennsylvania; Meredith (Butch) Jack, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas; and Jim Schwarz, Southwest State University.
Since its founding, the International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art has taken place every four years. The first two International Conferences on Contemporary Cast Iron Art were held in 1988 (chaired by Wayne Potratz and Tom Gipe) and 1992 (chaired by David Hartman) at The Sloss Furnaces National Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama. The third and fourth conferences took place at Johnson Atelier, with exhibitions at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, in 1998 (chaired by Ken Payne and Diane Cox) and 2002 (chaired by Mary Neubauer and Butch Jack).The fifth conference, Iron Bridging Art + Technology: Past, Present + Future, was held at the World Heritage site of Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale in 2006 (chaired by British sculptors Coral Lambert and Nick Lloyd.) The 6th conference, Meet – Melt – Make (chaired by Welsh sculptor Andy Griffiths and American sculptor Dan Hunt), was held in Wales at the historic Kidwelly Tinplate Museum in 2010. The conference sites have influenced their themes, from the history and aesthetic possibilities of the medium to the creative practice of contemporary artists. The portability of a conference with changing venue allows for diversity of audience, location, facility, and exhibition spaces.
The 7th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art, Coal.Essence: Iron Forming Art, Ritual and Landscape, will be held at the Open-Air Art Museum at Pedvale, Latvia in 2014. The location of the conference in Latvia will support the burgeoning practice of sculptural iron casting in the region and the conference site at Pedvale will emphasize iron within art, ritual and landscape. The conference will be an incredible platform for the continuing international discourse on sculptural iron casting.