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USD College of Fine Arts to Build Outdoor Sculpture Yard

In the nighttime, four people pour iron in a foundry. They are wearing protective gear and helmets. Sparks fly in all directions. The USD College of Fine Arts will build a new outdoor sculpture yard and is set to host the 2021 Western Cast Iron Art Conference.

VERMILLION, S.D. – To support their robust sculpture program, the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts will build a new outdoor sculpture yard, set to be completed Sept. 2021.

The sculpture yard will be located on the north side of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts building. This project is the third phase of the College of Fine Arts renovation, which also includes a $3.1 million renovation of Wayne S. Knutson Theatre and Colton Recital Hall.

The new space will feature an outdoor foundry for iron pouring, wood carving and other sculpture processes that are best suitable for outside work.

“The new sculpture yard is a significant step in the ongoing improvement of the college facilities, and it will benefit every single art student,” said Bruce Kelley, Ph.D., College of Fine Arts dean. “It will expand our students’ educational opportunities and enhance their artistic experiences. This sculpture yard proves once again that the USD College of Fine Arts is one-of-a-kind in the state of South Dakota.”

Cory Knedler, MFA, chair and professor in the art department, said that iron pouring has become a popular form of creating art across the nation. 

“Having a location to produce iron sculptures on the USD campus will put the university on the map,” said Knedler. “Many universities around the region do not have access to cast iron facilities, and USD will lead the region with iron expertise and provide experiential demonstrations not available at other locations around the region.”

In the fall of 2021, USD is scheduled to host the Western Cast Iron Art Conference (WCIAA) that will bring educators, students and enthusiasts from the region together.

“The conference is conceived to educate and celebrate while facilitating and inspiring art lovers to gain a better understanding and appreciation of cast iron as a sculpture medium,” said Christopher Meyer, MFA, an associate professor of sculpture in Department of Art. “It allows a symposium of focused discussion on equipment design, mold building and the endless connected experiences that are shared when practitioners convene. Casting iron has grown in popularity as the community has built up around the newfound custom designed furnaces pioneered since the 1950s. WCIAA seeks to link and celebrate the art and technology of casting iron.”

“We are looking forward to hosting the WCIAA conference next fall,” Kelley said. “It is just one of the many exciting opportunities that these new facilities will provide for the students and faculty of the College of Fine Arts.”


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