Program forges solid artists

By Jonathan Lee
Staff Writer

Brookhaven College’s School of the Arts is the only two-year college in Texas with The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accreditation, visual arts coordinator David Newman said. In fact, the department draws professors from other colleges to enroll in art courses, such as Tarrant County College adjunct art professor Robertus van der Wege, who is taking the popular art/metal jewelry course. “Brookhaven is the arts campus [in the DCCCD],” he said.

His expertise lies in largescale metalworking, which he exhibited in his one-person art show in a gallery on campus last March. Despite his competency, he said he wants to learn new skills. Natalie Macellaio, who holds two master’s degrees in metalsmithing and jewelry, joined Brookhaven’s faculty as an adjunct professor in 2005. Since Macellaio’s arrival, the art metals program has continued to grow and add more tools, equipment and processes. She said she attributes the program’s success to the variety of processes offered, including anodizing aluminum, enameling, casting, forging, sawing and riveting.

“I wanted to be able to get some skills for working smaller, and so I met Natalie during that show, and I thought, I work in big metal, I’m a welder and I do larger fabrication, so this was an opportunity to come here,” van der Wege said.

“I really, really appreciate the faculty that they have here,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to make things … that you’re able to show off as well because we do sculptural, wearable objects,” Macellaio said. “I think that gets students excited about the class, and it’s always fun to work with fire and melt metal.”

The lengthy investment casting process begins with finding influences in imagery found in nature and architecture, then carving and manipulating different waxes to create a form. The wax form goes into a flask, which creates the investment (mold). Burning off the wax takes five hours, and the investment takes 30 minutes. After the wax has melted, molten metal is poured into the empty cavity. Once that solidifies, it is quenched in water, and then the object comes out of the investment. Finally, the sprue (excess metal) is cut away and the object is sanded, filed and polished. Students work on their projects for three weeks.

Macellaio stressed that her class entails more than simply making jewelry. “We like to call it art and metals because we want people to know that it’s not making a ring that you could buy at the store, but it’s more about making sculptural objects that you could wear, things that are more unique and are designed for more of a personal or a conceptual idea.”

Brookhaven art student Grant Foreman said, “I don’t make jewelry; I make small sculptures.” Foreman said he was taking art metals for the fourth or fifth time. Kit Partin, who is taking her fifth class under Macellaio, said she appreciates having access to the studio on campus.

“Any other arts you can do in your own home,” Partin said, “but jewelry is something you can only do in a studio. You get a lot of skills that you don’t get to experience outside of a good college environment, or if you’re lucky enough to have access to a space where you can have a studio, because studios are expensive to have. You get all these amenities for low tuition.”

Jessica Hess, a science major, said: “A lot of people think that a studio art class is expensive. The cost of materials is often less than you would spend on a book for another class.” Hess said she encourages other students to take art metal/jewelry for the unique, hands-on experience.

“It’s a blast,” Hess said. “You’re going to learn things and do things that you never thought you’d be learning and doing, and it’s completely different than anything else you’re ever going to do, and it’s an experience that you should take a chance and try.” For art student Taylor Brinkman, the most rewarding part of the course is “when you’re done making something, and you look at it like, ‘I did that.’”