Penn State represented at International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art

Stephanie Swindle Thomas
May 24, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Arts and Architecture will represent Penn State in various artistic ways at the eight annual International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art (ICCCIA), to be held May 28 to June 2 in Scranton. 

Cristin Millett, professor of art in the Penn State School of Visual Arts and chair of exhibitions for ICCCIA, sees the conference as an opportunity to showcase Penn State’s role as a leader in university art foundries and research. Three current students, seven alumni, and several faculty and staff members will exhibit work, present their research, and perform throughout the event.

Dunleavy Dance Projects, led by Michele Dunleavy, Penn State associate professor of dance, will perform Steel Valley Rhythms at 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, as part of the conference. Dunleavy, who choreographed and will perform in Steel Valley Rhythms, was inspired by visits to the historic Carrie Blast Furnaces in Pittsburgh and creates a performance experience that connects the audience to the region's rich history. Performers will interact directly with the environment, using the furnace and surrounding area to create music, and as staging areas for choreography, while images are projected directly onto the furnace walls. 

Jeanmarie Higgins, associate professor of theater, will be attending the performance and writing an essay on Steel Valley Rhythms and other performances occurring during the conference. The project features dancers from central Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City, including Dunleavy, Jimmy Bonilla, Sarah Cook Mason, Natasha McCandless, Nolan McCormick, Dario Natarelli, and percussionist Joshua Troup, with College of Arts and Architecture staff member Alexandra Bush designing video and Cody Goddard providing technical support.

Steel Valley Rhythms performing at the State College Theatre.

Steel Valley Rhythms performing at the State College Theatre. 

IMAGE: TM Grey Photo

“This performance presents an opportunity to ‘install’ Steel Valley Rhythms in a completely different, yet related, setting. The performance in Scranton will be unlike any previous performances of the piece,” noted Dunleavy, who has presented Steel Valley Rhythms as part of the Festival of Combustion in Pittsburgh, at the Arts and Design Research Incubator at University Park, and The State Theatre in State College.

Millet’s work will be featured during the conference in three exhibitions: "Ferrous Wheel," "Transformed: Digital to Corporeal," and "That’s What She Said." She also curated the exhibition "Size Matters," and she served as a juror and curator for "Ef (Fe)ct." To round out her efforts, Millett will present her research as part of the panel "The Materiality of Iron.”

2014 master of fine arts alumna Kiana Honarmand, who is an affiliate assistant professor and artist-in-residence in the School of Visual Arts and assistant coordinator for the Stuckeman School Digital Fabrication Lab, is serving as the juror and curator for "Transformed: Digital to Corporeal," exhibiting in "Ef(Fe)ct," "That’s What She Said," and "Size Matters," and presenting on the panel “Iron in the 21st Century.”

Hillel O'Leary, who earned a master of fine arts degree in sculpture from Penn State in 2017, was selected to create a site-specific installation in a train car, an exhibition sponsored by the International Sculpture Center. Current sculpture bachelor of fine arts candidate Haven Tucker was selected for the Meltzone, where student artists are paired with an experienced artist-mentor. Tucker will work alongside his mentor to create molds that will be cast in iron during the conference.

Other Penn Staters participating in the conference as jurors, presenters or artists include School of Visual Arts alumni Katie Hovencamp, Elham Hajesmaeili Nooghi, Sidney Mullis, Christina Dietz, Julia May Connelly, and Cydnei Mallory, and current students Xalli Zúñiga, Chee Earn Khor, and Yiwei Wang.

“Students learn the process through active participation,” explained Millett. “With each subsequent pour, students are given more and more responsibility. In this way, iron pours follow a hands-on apprenticeship model, where learning occurs through interactions with teachers and experienced foundry workers. With every iron pour, skills and techniques are passed from one generation to the next.”

Detail from an aluminum pour with Cristin Millett

Detail from an aluminum pour with Cristin Millett.

IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle Thomas

ICCCIA occurs every four years; the 2014 conference was held in Sabile, Latvia. This year’s conference includes a keynote speech by Carolyn Ottmers, who runs the foundry program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There will be technical and conceptual panel presentations, technical workshops and demonstrations, nightly performances, iron pours, and an afternoon train excursion with multiple stops to experience performances and visit the 20 art exhibitions scattered across Scranton. Conference attendees will then spend Saturday, June 2, pouring their molds and creating works of art.

“The liquid metal is absolutely beautiful,” said Millett. “And after all the hard work of making the molds and melting/pouring the metal, it is such a rewarding surprise to crack open your molds after the pour and to see the finished metal casting.”

For more information, visit the ICCCIA online at

  • Michele Dunleavy dancing

    Michele Dunleavy dancing

    IMAGE: TM Grey Photo

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 24, 2018