Iron pour incoming
March 6, 2019
Mesalands Community College's 21st annual Iron Pour, which begins Sunday, still is enjoying a boost from an article in New Mexico Magazine more than a year ago.
Last year was the 20th anniversary of the molten-iron art festival, so organizers already were expecting more visiting artists to see one of the event's founders, Mesalands art professor D'Jean Jawrunner.
But the feature story in the magazine's March 2018 issue also boosted participation from the low 20s to more than 40 in one year.
This year, Mesalands fine arts faculty member Joel Kiser said he's expecting at least 30 visiting artists as far-flung as New York, Minnesota, Peru, Scotland and England. The New Mexico Magazine article still sparks interest, he said.
"I've had to field a lot more questions about it," he said. "We've got a lot of new names we haven't seen before."
Yousif Del Valle, another fine-arts faculty member, said the Iron Pour proves to be beneficial for Mesalands students, visiting artists and instructors.
"It's a very different environment," he said. "It's a learning atmosphere. It's good for us, and it's good for the town."
In short, the Iron Pour gives hands-on experience to use molten iron to create artwork.
First, artists and fine-art students - who play a crucial role in the festival's success by lending a hand in various tasks - break up used radiators, pipe, bathtubs and brake rotors into pieces the size of a Doritos chip, Kiser said.
"I say Doritos, because it's my favorite snack," he said.
They melt the pieces into molten iron using coke - a type of refined coal - that heats them to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten iron pours into a bucket, which then is poured into molds made of ceramic or resin-bonded sand.
Kiser said the average sculpture at the Iron Pour would be about 200 pounds. He estimates the event will use 6,200 pounds of molten iron during the week.
This year, the Iron Pour will use three furnaces - named Le Pepe, Greyskull and Col. Baranovich, respectively - to melt the iron.
For all the dangers of dealing with red-hot metal, the Iron Pour never has seen a serious injury in its 20 years. That's because organizers take safety seriously and regularly go over cautions with participants.
Minor cuts, bruises and burns occur, Kiser said, but the worst thing that generally happens to him each year is a furnace flare-up that burns off his mustache.
Del Valle doesn't have to worry about that. Though he sports a mustache and close-cropped beard during the interview, he said he'd shave his off before Iron Pour begins.
The college's Building D, just south of the big wind turbine, will host the Iron Pour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through March 16, and the public is welcome. Here are events associated with the weeklong festivities:
• Monday: Movie Night at 7 p.m. at the historic Odeon Theatre at 123 S. Second St. in Tucumcari. The theater will offer free admission for students with a college identification.
• March 13: Art show and slideshow, 5:30 p.m. The "Ferrous Space" art exhibition, curated by Lindsey Back and Kiser, will be at the Honorable J. Bronson Moore Room in the college's Building A. Students' artwork also will be displayed all week at the library.
• March 14: Meet the Artists, 2 to 5 p.m. The public can meet the Iron Pour's artists at the Building D foundry. Enjoy popcorn, drinks and live music and create a custom iron tile for $20. Commemorative plaques will be on sale for $15. The tiles will be poured the next day.
• March 15: Opening ceremony, noon. The actual pouring of molten iron will occur at that time in the Building D foundry.