Student working in the Foundry (2016)  Photo by Martin Kane

“At first glance, the foundry can be very intimidating. It’s a large space full of big tools, sparks, fire, and loud sounds.”  

UNC Greensboro Foundry Director Kevin Vanek says some of the students who enter this space are a little scared that they might not be able to do the work of transforming raw metal into works of art:

“It is my mission to show every student that they can achieve any of their metalworking dreams. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a student grow and become more confident in themselves and their abilities in the shop. Often it’s the students who were the most hesitant who wind up doing the best work.”

CVPA’s foundry and sculpture studio is a spacious outdoor work area on the ground floor of the Maud Gatewood Studio Arts Building. It includes a metal casting area, burn-out kilns for molds and ceramics, and a five-ton indoor/outdoor overhead hoist. Vanek says it’s one of the best shops he’s had the pleasure of working in:

 “CVPA’s foundry is very well equipped for working in both cast and fabricated metal sculpture. It has a half dozen high capacity welders, various metal cutting and forming tools, multiple forges, a 155-lb. pneumatic power hammer, a 10,000-lb. capacity bridge crane, and multiple metal furnaces capable of melting up to 660 pounds of bronze at one time. The students in the Art Department are very lucky to have this space. With the capacities of the foundry students can easily create works of art larger than themselves, larger than they ever thought they could produce.”

But, like an artist with his sculpture, Vanek is still refining the foundry, making adjustments to create a more inclusive learning place:

“I’ve made it a personal goal to address issues of accessibility in the shop. Metal working tends to be male dominated.  Some of the tools are not usable by all students. I am working to replace and to rebuild outdated equipment in the foundry to better fit the current/future student population. Recently, I ordered all news sets of safety gear for the foundry in all sizes so that all students can safely suit up and fully participate.”

Kevin Vanek, Foundry Director

As Foundry Director, Vanek teaches Metal Arts (welding and fabrication) and the Metal Casting Classes. He came to UNC Greensboro in the fall of 2020 from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) where he was the Studio Technician and an adjunct faculty member in 3D Design, Sculpture, and Foundry. Prior to teaching at USM, Vanek was a Master Fabrication Specialist for Bennett Forgeworks in Ridgeway, Colorado and a Visiting Artist at Colorado Mesa University. He holds an MFA in Sculpture from East Carolina University and a BFA in 3-D Studio Art: Sculpture and Glass from Bowling Green State University.

Story by Terri W. Relos

Photo credit Martin Kane