Art enthusiasts warm up to ‘The Iron Circus’

by Lucas Kunach

Emotions were running hot on Friday night as iron enthusiasts from around the country gathered in honor of a growing art form.
“The Iron Circus” drew about 125 people to the University’s Art Building in a fiery celebration of the Department of Art’s 30th annual iron pour. Pyrotechnic displays marked not only the culmination of this year’s iron pour, but also the progress that past years’ iron pours have made upon the current popularity of iron in the world of metal pouring.
“It’s good to have a fire event every now and then,” said Greg Strong, a senior in psychology. Strong accompanied the University’s Juggling Club, which was performing with fire for the first time this year.
Wayne Potratz, professor of sculpture and metalcasting and organizer of the Iron Circus, jokingly foreshadowed the upcoming spectacles to the crowded audience, which was comprised of art majors, iron pourers and interested onlookers, before the ceremonies began.
“Really, everybody step away from the gun powder,” Potratz said.
The evening’s activities centered on humans harnessing the energetic forces of fire. Throughout the course of an hour, performers danced through flaming hoops, juggled flaming pins and even poked a little fun at the myth of the origin of fire.
An actor portraying Prometheus, the first human to receive the gift of fire from a mythological god, was urged to “Play with it!” from the audience members.
In the spirit of iron pouring, the actor used his oversized puppet hands to grasp the fire, and the audience cheered and laughed as the flammable props became engulfed in flames.
The audience’s enthusiasm for the performances reflected their enthusiasm for iron metalcasting. While The Iron Circus gave everybody involved an opportunity to enjoy themselves, most people recognized the event’s uniqueness.
Although the festival has found a home here for decades, only recently have other colleges across the country begun to include the medium in their foundries.
George Beasley, an instructor at Georgia State University who is impressed by the recent surge in popularity of iron pouring among students at academic institutions, said students of the arts think iron pouring is ordinary. In the next 10 years these students will be spreading their knowledge, making this particular art form “as common as dirt,” he said.
While some of the attending artists were looking toward the future, some of the students on hand were looking back.
“It’s a big deal for students to meet professors who were there when it started,” said Paul Linden, a senior art major.
The connection between the past and the present created a bond among the audience.
“There’s definitely a sense of community here that I didn’t know about,” said Sarah Bednarek, a sophomore who came to the event out of curiosity. “The people were so into what they were doing.”
Artists cited the excitement of working with the fire’s heat for the rise in popularity of iron pouring.
“It’s sort of magical,” said Andrew MacGuffie, the foundry teaching assistant. “You’ve never seen something so hot, so dangerous.”
The Friday evening display capped off a day in which about 100 students and artists from colleges combined to pour 3,000 pounds of iron into artistic designs at the University foundry.