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Little Pour on the Prairie: Sculpting with Iron

Image Iron Pour USD art professor Chris Meyer pours iron into a reactionary mold that will take the shape of the inside of a tree stump.

VERMILLION, S.D. – When going into the arts, one does not always, at first glance, see it as a down-to-earth choice. But some forms of art, such as sculpture, push through a barrier of individual art forms and invite the need for versatility, community and the application of basic skills like math and science.

“A sculptor is kind of a jack-of-all trades. I think that’s what you have to be,” said Chris Meyer, associate professor of art at the University of South Dakota. “You have to have a curiosity to figure out almost anything. And it doesn't just apply to foundry. It applies to woodworking, to mold-making, to pretty much any material you can think of.”

Sculpture, especially iron pouring, requires a community of artists and others who are willing to gather and create something bigger than themselves. Iron pours that Meyer hosts every every summer feel like a family reunion. Artists, students and burly men from all around the Midwest come together and unite around a cupola, an instrument that reaches temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

USD Art Department chair Cory Knedler said that Meyer, who was was accepted this year to the board of the National Iron Pour Conference, deserves a lot of credit for how he has shaped the sculpture department since he arrived at USD. He has boosted the number of students, increased the quality of the graduate program and introduced the iron pour back into the curriculum. By doing this, the department is drawing interest from artists around the country.

“Visiting artists are really important to the art department because we do have the university in a very isolated area of the country. So it’s really nice to have other artists come and talk to our students about what they do with their art work and that way the students can learn new techniques, new ideas, and share ideas with them as well,” said Knedler.

Sculpture is one of the many programs that the art department offers at USD. Among the other majors: ceramics, painting, printmaking, graphic design and photography. For details on classes, visit USD’s art department.

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USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News