Sloss Furnace Association (Birmingham, AL)

sloss.jpg

    Three girls work on a project

Apprentices apply plasticene details to a wood pattern as part of the Sloss Furnace Association's summer apprentice program. Photo courtesy of Sloss Furnace Association

The Sloss Furnace Association in Birmingham, Alabama is a museum and national historic landmark on the 32-acre grounds where a blast furnace plant made iron from 1882 to 1971. One of Sloss's activities is an arts program focusing on cast and formed metal sculptures. The program highlights Birmingham's historic ties to the iron and steel industry.

In 2001, Sloss developed an arts-based youth apprenticeship program to build artistic, vocational, and social skills in high school students interested in the arts. The program involved an eight-week summer program that employed high school students to work 30 hours a week with professional artists. Earning a weekly stipend, the apprentices learned the complex techniques of casting and fabricating metal sculpture.

 

The work bench created by apprentices as part of the Sloss Furnace Association's summer apprentice program. Photo courtesy of Sloss Furnace Associatio

In FY 2003, Sloss received an NEA Arts Learning grant of $35,000 to support that year's apprenticeship program. During the summer of 2003, five professional artists and a teacher taught 14 apprentices the principles of three-dimensional design and processes for creating metal art. The apprentices learned patternmaking, moldmaking, and casting by undertaking and successfully completing several projects that utilized these processes. Projects completed during the summer session included large-scale pieces such as park benches and a 16-foot tree surround, and smaller individual sculptures. Through regular feedback and evaluation by the teaching artists, the apprentices developed their artistic, design, and technical skills. The program culminated with the apprentices' work being featured at three local arts festivals.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)