Friday, January 22, 2021

Generous Trustee Gift for New Foundry



Gift from Trustee Michele Cohen, husband Martin, to fund Alfred University foundry/distributed boiler project

Alfred University’s heating plant, shown here, will be renovated to house a new foundry facility.
Alfred University’s heating plant, shown here, will be renovated to house a new foundry facility.Board of Trustees member Michele Cohen and her husband Martin have long been among Alfred University’s most generous benefactors. Their most recent gift, of $6 million, will provide the University with a state-of-the-art foundry facility that will create exciting new opportunities for art and engineering students, while also providing the campus with a new energy-efficient heating system.

ALFRED, NY—Board of Trustees member Michele Cohen and her husband Martin have long been among Alfred University’s most generous benefactors. Their most recent gift, of $6 million, will provide the University with a state-of-the-art foundry facility that will create exciting new opportunities for art and engineering students, while also providing the campus with a new energy-efficient heating system.

Alfred University President Mark Zupan announced the Cohens’ gift, which establishes the Michele and Martin Cohen Capital Fund in support of Alfred University’s foundry/distributed boiler project.

“We are so inspired by and grateful for all the magic that Michele and Marty Cohen are setting in motion through their generous philanthropic commitment to the foundry/distributed boiler project for so many future generations of Alfred University students, faculty, and staff,” Zupan commented.

The project will renovate the existing heating plant—currently located in a building behind the Carnegie Hall parking lot—to house a state-of-the-art foundry, and will replace the University’s current central steam heating plant with an energy-efficient distributed boiler system, thereby creating significant savings in our utilities and maintenance costs while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The overall project also will create upgraded space to house displaced facilities team members who now work out of the existing central heating plant.

Michele Cohen, who has served on the University’s Board of Trustees since 2001, is retired from Cohen and Steers Capital Management in New York City and currently serves as chair of the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. Alfred University awarded her an honorary degree in 2018. Martin Cohen, who co-founded Cohen and Steers in 1986, is the company’s chair. The Cohens’ son, Adam, is a 2003 alumnus of the Alfred University School of Art and Design.

The Cohens’ previous philanthropy has endowed the deanship of the University’s School of Art and Design and Division of Performing Arts, established the Cohen Center for the Arts and Cohen Gallery, and launched APEX, our applied experiential learning program.

The Cohens established the capital fund after the project was identified as something “that would be transformative for the University,” Michele Cohen explained. “We had been considering a gift to Alfred and when this project was described, it became clear that it was something we could support. There are multiple ways it will help the University and the student experience.”

The new foundry will be home to our University’s National Casting Center, Advanced Digital Fabrication Lab, and Additive and Advanced Manufacturing Center. The student-focused collaborative space will provide melting facilities, classroom space, and other experiential learning opportunities. It will be utilized by the School of Art and Design’s Division of Sculpture/Dimensional Studies for its glass and metal casting programs, and by the Inamori School of Engineering for the materials science and mechanical engineering programs.

The facility—which creates the potential for new degree programs in combined art and engineering, such as digital fabrication design and engineering—will significantly benefit Alfred University’s student recruitment and retention efforts.

“The possibilities of what can be accomplished in this new building are endless.  I have always wanted to see more collaboration between the many departments, giving students the opportunity to use different parts of their brains and to explore classes that they might not otherwise had considered. This will help to maintain and amplify the excellent reputations of both of these top-rated schools,” Michele Cohen commented. “Giving students more creative, wide reaching opportunities will keep them engaged, excited, and challenged.”

Lauren Lake, Michele and Martin Cohen Endowed Dean of the School of Art and Design and Division of Performing Arts, agreed that the foundry will attract a diverse population of students, while also shining a spotlight in the sculpture program.

“The foundry is a collision space for the creation of new knowledge, research and teaching—a co-laboratory for students studying art, engineering, and more. The facilities will attract undergraduate students, transfer students and graduate students to our programs while providing community bridges across disciplines at Alfred and connections with the greater foundry communities across the country,” Lake said.

Gabrielle Gaustad, dean of the Inamori School of Engineering, agreed. “Engineering and Art and Design already collaborate in a variety of ways, she said, pointing to shared courses like the GlassArtEngine, in which engineers and artists work together on glass related projects, and shared facilities like our Digital Fabrication Lab. “This will open additional opportunities for those interactions – both curricular and extracurricular.” 

“Having this new facility on campus will open a large variety of opportunities for our engineering students,” Gaustad added. Among those opportunities: creation of metallurgy labs, in which materials science and mechanical engineering students learn about processing, smelting and casting; expansion of digital fabrication and 3-D printing capabilities; and enhancements to extracurricular offerings, like the student forging and blacksmithing club.

Coral Lambert, professor of Sculpture/Dimensional Studies in the School of Art and Design and director of National Casting Center Foundry, is excited about what the foundry project will mean to the growth of the Sculpture/Dimensional Studies Program.

“Being able to offer courses in a brand new facility located directly on campus holds tremendous opportunities for the Division of Sculpture, the School of Art and Design, and the University in general,” Lambert commented. “Due to proximity, educational collaborations can be more easily implemented by integrating course content with art history, engineering, environmental and global studies, among others.”

Lambert said the foundry facility’s centralized on-campus location will better serve existing students and be beneficial as a recruiting tool.

“The major difference for the new facility is its location, which is something I fervently advocated for because it will raise the visibility of the National Casting Center Foundry and will increase student involvement,” Lambert said. She noted that the facility’s split-level design—which includes a catwalk that will allow for foundry pours to be viewed safely from above—will make the facility more accommodating for student visits and public tours.

New York State has approved $1.2 million from the SUNY Construction Fund for the foundry project’s design phase, set to begin in January. Construction of the new foundry will be completed by the fall of 2022 or spring of 2023. Construction of the new distributed boiler system will begin in January, with completion scheduled for the fall of 2021.

“We are truly grateful for Michele and Martin Cohen’s gift. They understand the important role that transdisciplinary and exceptional facilities contribute to support thoughtful, innovative and expansive research,” Lake said. “Our learning community is dedicated to building a shared base of knowledge that supports each student's individual development and prepares them to be active creative members of the world and their support allows this to happen.”

The Cohens made their $6 million commitment to the foundry/boiler project in honor of 1954 Alfred University graduate Marlin Miller (honorary degree recipient in 1989 and 2019), Michele Cohen’s colleague on the University’s Board of Trustees. Miller, a former Board chair, is a noted businessperson and philanthropist, and Alfred University’s most generous donor. Projects funded by his gifts include the Miller Performing Arts Center, Miller Theater, Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, renovations of our Tefft and Openhym residence halls, construction of the Link between Tefft and Moskowitz halls, and a repaving project on campus which will create new bicycle and pedestrian paths as well as nearly 100 new parking spaces. Marlin’s philanthropy also supports numerous student scholarships and endowed faculty/staff positions.

“We both want to recognize a hero of ours.  There is no one we know who has taught us more about generosity and philanthropy,” Michele Cohen said of Miller. “Marlin has an elegant and gracious way of seeing a need and addressing it directly, providing our students the opportunity to be their best.  There are few people who make such an everlasting impression on the lives of so many.”

With the Cohens’ commitment, Alfred University has generated $102.3 million as part of the quiet phase of the fundraising campaign that began in July 2016. At some point over the next year or two, the University will publicly announce a target of at least a $200 million for the campaign, toward advancing Alfred University’s mission, vision, and values.

Friday, May 15, 2020

'Furnace Dreams' During Covid19

African Iron Smelting Furnace in the shape of a woman
One of the online assignments for Junior Foundry during Covid 19 was to Design a Dream Furnace. To start with we looked at historic furnaces from Ancient African Iron Smelters which are often personified to Abraham Darby's coke furnace in Ironbridge that addressed the fuel shortages of wood at the time of the Industrial Revolution. A furnace that melts metal can be a purely functional apparatus but it is also a magical apparatus of transformation, in early times it is where ritual and ceremony took place in order for a successful material transformation to be undertaken. In contemporary metal casting practices this still holds some resonance with many people and forces coming together for a pour bringing their energy and focus towards melting the metal. In some cases the furnace and the pour intentionally become a performance, on most occasions it is a well coordinated dance of sweat and logistics. Students were asked to consider type of material to be melted, fuel used, crew needed, site and occasion. 

Darby Furnace 1709 First Coke Fired Furnace, Ironbridge, UK
Autumn Maggi 'Plasma Trivection Kiln and Furnace' 

     See through main crucible/kiln area
     Fireplace for cooking and warmth
     Digital temperature gage
     Manual and Digital Controls
     Can heat up most metals within 30 minutes
     Wood and gas powered
     Can be operated by two or less people

Misty Long-Donoho  'S'MoreChocolator'

Daniela Murphy  'Corona the Furnace' 


Corona the furnace is a safety proven modified trash can, insulated with refractory material and a temperature gauge to ensure the easy and accurate firing of various metals and pottery to its appropriate temps. It features a design that can handle both a crucible for the melting of metals or a platform for firing clay bodies. The furnace is equipped with a modified lid on which spikes are attached for the roasting of foods wrapped in foil. The lid will be minimally insulated for the purpose of utilizing the excess heat in order to cook the foods. 

Emily Bernier  'Its Time To Par-Tea' 

The teapot is the chamber that protects the furnace and is mostly there for show. When you open up the top of the teapot (the flame topper) you will see the furnace and you can grab your crucible to pour your metal. This furnace will melt aluminum only and will run on propane and the metal will be melted within a crucible made out of carbide graphite. The furnace goes up to 1250 degrees fahrenheit because that is the melting temperature for aluminum. The exterior is made of steel with 1” of fibrefrax ceramic wool to insulate the furnace as well as ceramic wool located on the cover of the furnace(not pictured). The bottom is made out of refractory cement and also has fire bricks. You will use the gas hose, propane and gas pressure regulator to heat the furnace safety! After we melt the hot metal into the crucible and pour it into our molds, we will all gather together and have a tea party!
John MacArthur  'Furnace Fantastic'

I want to be able to melt metal in my hands but this is the body I have created to do it for me.

Artzy Basheff 
 Adrienne 'Milo' Beebe  'Travelling Communities'

My furnace is named Travelling Communities, it is designed so that it can be taken apart into four pieces and reassembled on site. It’s an iron furnace. Originally it was created for bronze, but I realized that I want this furnace to be able to travel to communities that experienced hardship, and iron is more readily available. This is both a production and performance furnace. I would want to bring this bright furnace to areas that recently went through natural disasters, and invite locals to participate in an iron pour where they can:-

1. Make something functional
2. Make something sentimental
3. Throw in personal debris to charge the furnace.

It would therefore run on coke, limestone, iron, and whatever the locals wanted to through in (as long as it’s safe to burn eg. papers, wood, leaves…). Ideally, Travelling Communities would need four to five experienced metal workers, and the locals would fill in the rest. The more people that participate, the easier the work.

Anna Rasmussen 'Gnome Furnace'


This furnace is based on the Gnomes workshop, they have their own language and it would produce gnomes gold.

'Tara' 2007 National Casting Center Foundry 100# tap coke fired iron furnace
 Tara Thomas  'Birnace'

Birnace works like a Darby Furnace, and is positioned at the side of cliff for access to charging him via his beak. Birnace is thirteen-foot-tall furnace with a double-conical designed keeping heat in making him more fuel efficient. He is equipped with a “poop-shoot” to let out the molten metal into egg shape molds and used exclusively for melting copious amounts of gold.
Birnace exists in an alternate universe where there is a sole owner of all the gold in their world, due to the fact that he is a super-being and all the normal humans are allergic to gold. The super-being protects the other beings with technology advancements brought to them from the super-being’s home world, E-Ar-Th. Birnace may be made of metal but he does have a life of his own. He rests by the super-being’s side in a large nest. The normal-beings worship the super-being and Birnace for their abilities by bring them charges of gold and fuel throughout the day, careful to not touch any of gold that covers most of the plant.

Saymi Pinder  'Dragon Furnace'

Friday, May 8, 2020

Senior Spotlight: Alessio Ardita

I am a double Art + Design and Engineering major, who works in metal, glass, and performance. My work involves references to pop culture as well as the creation of my own characters and twists on recognizable items.

Alessio playing a cast aluminum guitar

Rune Electric Guitar
I created my own symbolic language, and using that created the body of this guitar. The symbol is my own name, and the guitar is then cast aluminum that I turned into a playable guitar.
Picture of performance based on glass spike sleeve 

Glass arm
This glass arm was entirely created from glass, foam and flex seal. It is meant to resemble the powerful arm of a character for a short story I wrote. He is insane, but only because of the energy of the arm. The arm symbolizes the destructive force of ‘power’. He may be at the top, but he is there alone. 

Cast iron glove

Hell Boy’s Gauntlet
This piece is made entirely out of iron and weighs almost 60 lbs. It was inspired by my favorite childhood superhero, Hell Boy. I mention this, because many of the ideas that lead to the creation of my original characters come from past interests.I believe it’s only fair to pay my dues to what led to my current works.

Hydrolysis powered hand held flame thrower

Hydrolysis cannon
This piece was created from my idea of Hydrogen being a clean renewable source of energy as it turns the water inside it’s cylinders into fire through the common process of hydrolysis. I made it look like the blasters from Iron man’s suit as I found the idea quite comical and gave it a spin based on my own imaginative design work.

Staff with cast bronze symbol

The Staff of Destiny / Picks of Destiny
These pieces are meant to resemble the Pick of Destiny from the Tenacious D movie. It is the best movie ever, period. That was a reference to the movie.

The dream well
This work was created from the idea of throwing coins into a well in exchange for a granted wish. The structure is entirely made out of found objects, such as an old heater and a rigging system I found in a scrap yard. It symbolizes the magic we believe we can purchase and the question of whether the wish will ever come true.

Oney is a fictional character I made for a book I’ve been working on. He is one of the ‘failed’ experiments the United States military created trying to clone an even bigger, more terrifying wonder of the world. Oney is considered a monstrosity by the states only by their own mistake, as they extracted the DNA from the beast as it was turning back to a human. While his appearance is atrocious, is he not as much of a human being as the rest of us? Or should he live as the monster we brand him as?

Spooky Vid.mp4
This work was a comical idea I had by using video effects I learned to ‘get’ the audience.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Senior Spotlight: Ruby Wisniewski

cast bronze bee with iron and paper flowers
The piece below "Mobile Museum" is a traveling, living, museum that is designed to catalog a mile long path through Alfred, NY. The wheel is rolled to a location, where the user can explore and add samples, images, or notes to the archive as one discovers new things on the trail. The inner circle invites comfortable lounging for the user to sit and contemplate the space around them. Giving a feeling of playful exploration this museum is intended to allow one to explore the world with the eyes of a child.


"Out of my Depth" is representative of my feelings toward a double major in Art and Engineering during my third year in college. There was a great deal of balance necessary. I felt as though I had no direction (no rudder), and despite obviously being on a path somewhere, I wasn’t actually going anywhere. I couldn’t tell if my educational bedrock (of engineering textbooks) was supporting me or if I had run aground upon it. But it came to feel as though only I could see the ocean upon which I was trying to navigate. 

Inspired by honeycomb paper ornaments, "Nut to Hut" comments upon the origins of our resources. It originates as a piece of AstroTurf upon which acorns are “planted” and “watered”. It is then placed vertically to reveal that it resembles the outline of a tree cut in half. The piece is “opened” revealing that it is in fact a paper honeycomb tree. An ax is presented and it “cuts down” the tree. The vertical piece is closed and reopened 180 degrees to the other side creating a small domicile to which a front door and welcome mat are added. 


Inspired by Tibetan Singing bowls "Drum Circle" engages the community in experimentation and sound. Several musical bowls were cast using various combinations of aluminum, iron, and bronze to change their sound. 

The piece relied on auditory and tactile interaction. The bowls were arranged into a drum circle with a bright fiery centerpiece, and cushions forming a circle to sit on and play.

The large polished bronze bowl (representing the fire around which a community may gather) also calls back to the process in which all of the bowls were made in the foundry, born of fire in one cohesive effort, just as the drum circle itself recollects the community of the foundry.

Senior Spotlight: Molly Fitscher

Nature is not only my inspiration, but is an actual material in my practice. I have a growing and withering collection of found organic material such as leaves, moss, flowers, and bark. I use these materials in conjunction with glass and metal, to create my work.

By working with contrasting natural and artificial materials, it allows me to incorporate my passions, process of art making and nature together. I appreciate the process of art making. I value the experience in the making of art, and I believe it's just as prominent as the completed work. 

This was my first cast piece in both glass, and metal. By displaying the original piece of wood with the cast replicas by its sides, and tied fragments of my own recently cut hair I was trying to create a connection between myself, and my developing practice.

With this work I was more focused on the experiential factor. The process and involvement that took place in creating, made the end product gratifying. The know of how this was constructed, was my completed work. 


This series was exploratory for me. By hot casting over bark I constructed an exoskeleton. These exoskeletons are a reproduction of nature with a focus on the high textured forms it creates.


With nature being an inspiration and material within my practice, I habitually organize it. This custom is a way regulating my work so there is no repetition. This piece is me taking my organizational aspect of my practice with my nature influence, and incorporating it into a piece.

This installation is about form, light, and texture from my own imitation of nature. By looking at natural patterns I was able to create my own personal interpretation of nature, but with the materials of my choice.

Centrifugal casting in progress