Collaborating with North Gallery, the San Jacinto College North Campus welding program presented a metal art showcase in February.
The installment, "Reigning Fire: Metal Fabrication Art Show," featured welded sculptures and other designs created by students in the metal sculpture and art metals welding courses.
These courses are designed for artists, hobbyists, and those who think welding is too exclusive for the ordinary person. It gives everyone a chance to "explore creative possibilities in metal art," according to welding instructor Emily Choate.
"Even if you don't feel like you are a creative person or call yourself an artist, this class is still for you," Choate said. "We highly encourage working as a team to share ideas. A basic idea could easily turn into a work of art."
The art metals course eliminates the need for prior welding experience by focusing on the fundamentals. Students learn shop and tool safety, GMAW welding, cutting, grinding, and CNC plasma fabrication.
The metal sculpture course focuses on the design and business side of art metals and product fabrication by introducing 3D CAD/CAM. Metal sculpture students also write a basic business plan or art proposal while working on their own creations.
The projects created in these courses became the featured artwork in the "Reigning Fire" showcase, some forged by students who had never picked up a torch before.
One of these students, Juan Suarez, was a phlebotomist pursuing a nursing degree before enrolling in a welding course at the College's Central Campus.
"I had been in the medical field for 15 years and lost my passion for it," Suarez said. "I have always been artistic and good with my hands, so I gave welding a try. I feel like I've found my passion again."
Suarez's piece, a cutlery owl, sits atop a 6-foot metal tree with intricate beads running down its trunk and adorned by hand-cut leaves.
"If you had told me six months ago, I'd be creating an owl out of spoons and forks for an art showcase, I don't know if I would have believed you," Suarez said. "The art metals and metal sculpture courses have helped me tap into my potential and open up to new possibilities."
At 43, Suarez is grateful for his chance at a second career and encourages others to explore their passions.
"You never know the potential you have until you test it," he said. "It's never too late for a new start."
Opening up those opportunities is exactly Choate's goal in introducing these courses.
"Seeing someone come in with little to no experience and turn out an amazing piece is so rewarding for me and for the students," Choate said. "I want them to feel comfortable tapping into their creative sides and thinking outside the booth."
This is the first art showcase at the North Campus to feature pieces from the art metals courses, but it will not be the last, according to art professor Joe Clark.
"We are honored to show these fantastic sculptures at North Gallery," Clark said. "I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to collaborate with other departments on the North Campus, and this show with our welding program is a perfect fit. I hope to do this again and look forward to seeing their work in the future."
To learn more about the art metals courses, visit publications.sanjac.edu/courses-az/wldg.