Karl Unnasch watches the furnace during one of his previous metal pours. This year will see the first bronze pour in Lanesboro, though there have been three or four iron pours  in the area previously. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Karl Unnasch watches the furnace during one of his previous metal pours. This year will see the first bronze pour in Lanesboro, though there have been three or four iron pours in the area previously. SUBMITTED PHOTO
As the Lanesboro community already focuses greatly on the arts and is currently working to increase its influence on the city, a bronze pour certainly fits the bill.

On Saturday, July 19, artist Karl Unnasch and a team of fellow artists and helpers will be conducting the 2014 Bronze Pour in the Gateway Park, located just across from the softball field off of County 8 in Lanesboro. The Lanesboro Arts Center will be hosting the bronze pour and is working in cooperation with the city of Lanesboro.

Unnasch, who holds a bachelor's degree in art from Winona State University and a masters of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, is also a nationally-acclaimed artist, originally from the Lanesboro region.

"I was a farm kid. I lived in the country but went to school in the Lanesboro system. I remember when it was close to a ghost town and have seen it change," he stated. "I have plenty of attachment to the town and want it to do well. I want to keep residents happier because the tourist season is crazy in town."

Unnasch began working with metals while taking a casting class at Winona State. Beginning with aluminum, he soon fell in love with working with the medium.

"Aluminum does not have much 'value,' but I loved making it interesting, improving it and giving it a new value," he explained.

Eventually he progressed toward ironwork and then bronze. The metal he holds a tremendous affection for is the bronze, however.

"I call it the sexiest metal," Unnasch explained. "Bronze is a great conductive, more malleable, does not degrade as fast and is strong and resilient. It also has an allurement to it forming a patina layer and is great to turn into something musical. You just flick the bronze and it sings, lasting a long time."

The patina layer forms as the object ages, enhancing the beauty of the item.

Another quality very much appreciated by Unnasch is that bronze melts at a little cooler temperature than iron - 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heating the metal generally takes several hours to get it to the right temperature for pouring. The container the metal is in during this process is called the crucible. It is a rounded ceramic vessel.

One way to identify the right temperature is by using a gadget called a pyrometer. This instrument measures the high temperatures necessary for projects such as molding metal.

Another way to identify the right temperature is through the color.

"If you are experienced enough, you can see how hot the metal is by the color. The metal should be a ripe orange color. You don't want it to be orange yellow. That is too hot. If the metal is too hot, it will burn into the sand, making the sculpture rough," Unnasch described.

Once the metal has been liquefied, molds are stacked two or three at a time and the bronze is poured into them to cool.

The molds for this project will be pre-made, sand resin molds prepared by Unnasch. Prior to the pour, there will be two workshops available for participants to create their own designs in the molds, but those who take part in the workshop must pay $25 for the mold. However, once the sculpture is molded, they will be able to take theirs home.

Unnasch will provide tools for workshop participants to scratch in the molds. They will be able to scratch words, poetry, drawings or whatever they desire in the mold. The two-hour workshops are scheduled for Friday, July 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If anyone wants to take the workshop twice, they can.

After the workshops, the bronze pour public event will take place, beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing until 6 p.m. As pouring the metal is so dangerous, only Unnasch and his team will handle the pouring, but any person who wishes may come and watch them as they do it.

"The public event is art in the making. It is a behind the scenes look at how to mold the sculptures," stated Sara Baskett, Lanesboro Arts Center marketing director. "If anyone did not participate in the workshop, they are welcome to the public event and stay to watch."

The sculpture itself will be in the shape of a footprint, about four inches by six inches long. Whatever scratch art people draw in the sand molds will be elevated on the footprint requiring the participants to scratch their words and other drawings in reverse.

"The text will be raised on the footprint, so they will have to write backwards, which is pretty tricky," Unnasch noted.

This is where the artists on hand will come into play, to assisted in this problematic sequence.

Unnasch will be bringing a propane furnace to the event, which will require his utmost attention. Of course, before an event such as this, he does test out the furnace to make sure nothing goes wrong.

"I test the furnace to make sure there are no hiccups. At the pour I have to watch the furnace like a hawk so I can't be watching over what everybody is doing. We will have five or six artists and helpers covering that," Unnasch commented.

He will not simply be providing this opportunity for the community to have fun and blow off some steam seeing this activity. He will also be contributing his own finials to decorate and sit atop objects around the community. In addition, the artists helping with the pour will also have an opportunity to cast their own works.

Unnasch's finished pieces produced from the bronze pour will be placed throughout town in the parking lot, pedestrian walkway and the green spaces of the Lanesboro Arts Campus sometime in August.

Once the bronze has been poured into all the molds, they will sit overnight to cool down. At 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 20, the participants can pick up their sculpture at the park. That morning's schedule will include the unveiling of sculptures, cleanup and surface preparation/patina finishing. If participants are not able to be there on Sunday morning, sculptures may be picked up at a later date at the Lanesboro Arts Center.

In the event of rain, the workshops will continue on as scheduled since there will be tents available. However, the pour itself will be postponed.

"There must be a four to five hour chunk of time where it will not be raining. If we do have to postpone, notice will be put up on the Lanesboro Arts Center's Facebook page," Baskett related.

If the weather clears up an hour later, the pour may still take place, but if rain is forecasted all afternoon, the pour will be delayed until the next day or as soon as possible. Even if it is pushed off, the pour will still be done at the same place.

To register for the workshop or for more information call the Lanesboro Arts Center at (507) 467-2446(507) 467-2446.