METAL ART TO SET SAIL: Area students plan to construct future sculpture in Spirit Lake

Monday, October 31, 2016

Some Spirit Lake High School students will exchange their textbooks for welding masks this January in the hope of beautifying the Lakes Area.

Members of the Art of Welding J-Term class met with the Spirit Lake City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 25, to pitch their idea for a sculpture they will be fabricating during the course. The students presented a video showcasing their artwork to try to secure funding.

The council approved the project, which will be placed at the intersection of Highway 71 and 9.

The Art of Welding class will convene for two and a half weeks from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the vocational-tech building starting on Jan. 3. Students will weld, cut and bend metal to assemble the sculpture.

Brad Travis, Spirit Lake High School art teacher and J-Term instructor, believes the class gives students an opportunity to get some on-the-job experience.

"The J-Term class has really been a great class for kids," Travis said. "They get to see what it is like to weld and work all day in that environment. Since doing our J-Term, we counted last that we had 12 to 14 students that had pursued welding in some sort of job orientation after high school."

The sculpture will resemble the city's three-sail logo. Each sail will represent a different period in Spirit Lake history. It will stand 25 feet tall, 16 feet long and 14 feet wide when completed.

Travis said the mainsail will constitute the past. Spirit Lake will be engraved vertically across the sail, which will have a light shining upward from its base.

The present will be depicted on the headsail. Silhouettes of different activities from the Lakes Area will be used to form its skin.

The spinnaker will represent the future of Spirit Lake. The sail will be constructed with weaving bands. Some of the bands will have words, such as community and family, carved into them to portray values Travis hopes the city continues to grow.

"It's amazing what we get done," Travis said. "These kids work hard. They get ran through the paces, and they accomplish a lot. I don't do any welding on the sculpture. I am basically the supervisor. We just kind of solve problems as they come up, and we have been able to crank out some incredible sculptures in a short period of time."

The sculpture will be built from sheets of stainless steel. Students will use a plasma cutter, which was donated by the Friends of the Sami Center, to quickly cut the metal into different shapes.

The seams of the sculpture will then be welded together piece by piece. Travis said chains will suspend the metal to allow students to rotate it as they work.

Students will grind the sculpture once it is finished.

"The grinding will give the metal a polished sheen texture," Travis said. "It will not rust. It will be that way forever. There is no paint required when you do it that way. We try, when dealing with metal sculptures, to not paint them. We want to show the essence of what metal is and not obscure that."

PHOTO SUBMITTED/ Members of the Art of Welding J-Term class talked about their experiences in the course at the Spirit Lake City Council meeting on Oct. 25. They also showed the council a computer generated image of the completed project.

Spirit Lake City Attorney/Administrator Greg Owens said the city will investigate in the next few months what kind of foundation will be needed to erect the sculpture. He added the city plans to do some landscaping and construct a pathway at the site as well.

"We will have to excavate in a hill a little bit, because there is a slope down there," Owens said. "We have to figure out exactly where it needs to sit, so it looks right from the highway."

The estimated price of the materials for the sculpture is $20,000. An additional $20,000 cost is needed to assemble the concrete pad for it to be placed on. The City of Spirit Lake plans to cover the total cost of the project.

Owens said he has applied for a $10,000 grant from the Iowa Arts Council to help alleviate some of the cost. He said the city will know if it received the grant by the end of the year.

The sculptured has to be installed by June 30, 2017 to meet the grant requirements.

"I think the partnerships with the city and the schools are important," Owens said. "Those kids do a lot of work. If you look at the stuff they come up with, it is absolutely amazing. The J-Term has been one of the interesting innovations our school system has had. We are one of the few school systems in the state to really do it. It gives kids a chance to explore and to work on a team. They are learning stuff that they couldn't do in a regular class."

Owens said the Spirit Lake Council decided to approve the project because it would mean more to the community than hiring an outside artist.

"These kids are going to have something out there that they can take pride in," Owens said. "I think something like that is a lot better than just saying, 'hey let's have so-and-so build something and pay for it.' It just doesn't mean as much to do it that way."

A link to the Art of Welding J-Term presentation video can be found on the Spirit Lake High School website.

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