It's nearing the end of the school year, and graduation day for seniors is quickly approaching. Some are sad, and others are excited, even ecstatic. But before they walk out the doors for good, the seniors at Holy Angels Academy were given an opportunity to create one last art project that they were able to share with the entire school community.
On Saturday, the senior art students hosted the second annual chicken barbecue, art show and aluminum pour event on the school grounds. Preparation for the event began a couple of weeks earlier, when sand molds from the Ashford Hollow Foundation arrived. Each student received a mold and had to come up with an idea of what to carve.
Kerry Hahn, senior class president, decided to carve a tree. The senior class has used the tree as its class symbol, so Hahn thought it seemed like a perfect idea to use that as the subject of her last art project. Other subjects ranged from a lock and key to an octopus.
Once the subjects were chosen, the students drew what they were going to carve on a piece of paper. They placed the drawing in the sand mold and planned how they would carve it. Then the carving process began.
While carving, the students had to consider that the finished product would come out opposite of what was planned.
Hannah Morelli, who carved a seashell, said, "I thought it was difficult to reverse the image and judge the depth."
It's not every day that you can use molten metal for an art project.
Nicole Schneggenburger, who carved an anchor, said, "[The people from the Ashford Hollow Foundation] are coming into our school and letting us use a new medium that we haven't been able to use before."
The Ashford Hollow Foundation owns and operates Griffis Sculpture Park and Essex Arts Center.
Ken Payne, the director of the sculpture department at Buffalo State College, has been casting metal for 40 years and worked with the late Simon Griffis. They thought it would be a good idea to do aluminum pours at schools, and that idea has become a reality.
Payne said, "It's such a joy to see [the students'] faces when they see the finished project. It's the coolest part of the night."
So many other aspects of the night were competing to be "the coolest part." Before the pour began, students, teachers, families and friends gathered to eat and look at student artwork that was showcased in the halls. As it started getting late, anticipation grew as everyone gathered around where the aluminum would be poured.
As a furnace heated the aluminum in a crucible, the crowd admired the carvings the seniors had created. Once the aluminum reached a liquid state at 1,600 degrees, it was finally time. Before they started pouring, there was a moment to remember Griffis, who helped with last year's event (he also made a larger mold to create a sculpture that now hangs in the entrance of Holy Angels). After that, the red-hot crucible was taken out of the furnace and the liquid metal was poured into the mold. The metal was so hot that you could see flames leaping from the mold as it settled in the sand mold.
As they heated more aluminum for the second round of pouring, the first round of molds cooled enough to be solid metal again. The metal was popped out of the molds, and the finished projects lay in the grass for all to see.
Now the students will polish them and have a physical representation of the event and their high school years. Everyone in the crowd could sense that this was a special project for the seniors, and as a fireworks display was set off to end the event with a bang, it was obvious that this project had done the same for the end of the seniors' year.
Kristina Macro is a sophomore at Holy Angels Academy.