Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Some wonderful items to share this month involving our work that has impacted the community and about new program developments coming soon to a fire arts center near you.

Kelly Brazil was a student of mine back in  Fall of  2010.  Since then Kelly has been active as Artist in Residence at Kulture Klub and used CAFAC as a collaborative partner.  Kulture Klub brings together youth experiencing  homelessness and artists to help the youth express their connection to their community.  We at CAFAC are glad to support Kelly's efforts in our community and are thrilled that she was recently awarded an Arts on Chicago grant. Here's a link to a story about Kelly and Tayvon, one of the youth she's worked with at Kulture Klub and CAFAC.

We're baking mud pies. OK, they look more like cakes. With help from our loyal volunteers, we have been looking for ways to make our (soon to roll out) foundry program as eco-friendly as possible.  These are direct carve molds used in making tiles. Our recipe is all natural and recyclable.  Sand, flour, water and little  molasses make a very solid sand mold for direct carve molds.  And the place smells great as we bake them on the grill. 

You'll have the opportunity to join in the foundry fun later this fall when we offer our first class! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's been COMING SOON for awhile now...

Open shop time! Since before our doors opened, we've heard great demand for it, for intermediate and advanced students and artists who want to work independently on projects. So, we're very pleased to introduce our SPARC program (that's Studio Pass at Reduced Cost), launching in October, for welding and blacksmithing. Find complete details and sign up for a spot here!

(Oh, the hot Cheetos and Takis? Nothing to do with SPARC. But besides inspiring the hit song of the summer, they also played a role in our next COMING SOON program... foundry!)

Friday, September 7, 2012


Pillsbury House has announced the first round of awards for artistic placemaking projects chosen to launch their “Arts on Chicago” project, and we are pleased to report that CAFAC is on the list!

Our project is a mural installation on the north wall of our building near 38th and Chicago. It’s the studio entrance for students and volunteers, and currently about one hundred feet of boring white wall. The mural, design by local muralist Andrew Broder, combines elements of the building’s movie theater history with a nod to the fiery work being produced in our studio. It will incorporate sculptural metal pieces and interactive LED elements fabricated by youth currently incarcerated at the Hennepin County Home School (HCHS).

Last week the guys from HCHS were in our studio. Most of them were nearing the end of their incarceration and had walked through the four step process of accepting RESPONSIBILITY for what they had done to find themselves there, approaching life with INTEGRITY moving forward, finding EMPATHY for those they had wronged and RENEWing their resolve to begin again. Those steps were the themes for their sculptural challenge. They used a deconstructed Archimedean solid as an analogy for every human being having what it takes to be a solid person but it being every person’s choice to do so.

I was amazed by their creativity and the depth of their understanding. The concepts they came up with were:

Rendered as a tornado. All of them felt that at some point their lives had spun out of their control. But they chose to render the vortex as a path made of all the pieces in a row and formed into a spiral. Their responsibility was to follow it out of the chaos. Deep.

Rendered as a man sitting on the ground, head in hands considering his path and how to move forward with integrity. It was cool to see our volunteer fabrication coordinator, Brad Buxton, take this opportunity to talk to the guys about being a craftsman and taking pride in your work. He showed them the right tools to use and the geometry to calculate the hexagon’s dimensions so that the pieces would all fit together as designed. They listened and fabricated to specification.

A flower designed by a Lakota youth who also wrote the word “empathy” in his native language at the center of his design with the plasma cutter. I can’t wait to see the light emanating from that flower.

The form fully constructed. Ready to be a part of something, solid as a stone.

A group of women from HCHS will be here in a few weeks. They will be working with our electrician, John Stretch of Stretch Electric, and CAFAC’s Arduino instructor, Jeff Whaley. The girls, also juvenile felons, will get to have their hands on the tools of these trades. They will be creating an elaborate conduit tubing design as well as the LED array that will (we hope), respond to its environment in some way. It should be a blast.

Look for the mural painting to start next week and the sculptural forms and LED elements to evolve over the next couple of months.

I love my job.

Monday, August 27, 2012

CAFAC at the State Fair!

It has been another busy summer at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center with construction of our studios and grinding booth, summer classes, youth projects, the Powderhorn Art Fair, and we're closing things off with a trip to the Great Minnesota Get Together!  

Did you know you can find CAFAC at the fair represented in work created by one of our students, Sherrie Stockton, and through our blacksmithing instructor, Dave Mariette, who's been a blacksmith in residence at the fair for 11 years!

 You can find Dave and Toby hard at work at Heritage Square.

And you can find this lovely gnome in the NW corner of the Creative Activities Building.  So glad he was wearing his seat belt to make it there safely!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Power of Volunteering

Since I started as Volunteer Coordinator 6 months ago, I have continually been amazed by the commitment, energy and generosity of the volunteers who come to the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center.

In 6 months, our volunteers have given us almost 800 hours of their time in many ways:
  • to fabricate functional items for our workshops
  • staffing our gallery
  • making food for our events
  • distributing flyers
  • photography & web design
  • tedious data entry
  • even to clean our restroom among other things!
This doesn't even include our dedicated Stoker, or shop management, team who attend regular training and keep regular hours to ensure the smooth running of our shop.

Today I read about an interesting study that stated: "...research carried out by Volunteer Ireland has found that being involved in volunteering makes people happier. The research was carried out on more than 500 active volunteers across the country with 98% responding that ‘volunteering makes them a happier person’." I'm hope the same can be said for American volunteers!

With that in mind, I have a little announcement...This week is the first time a volunteer has logged enough hours to avail of a free class at CAFAC, I am so happy that this individual is Lori Shimer, our first ever gallery volunteer who has been with us from the beginning of the Nokomis Gallery in 2010, she deserves it!!

Now if she could only decide whether to take welding or blacksmithing...hmm...