Heather Doyle - Metalworker
I met with Heather Doyle to talk blacksmithing and got a lot more than I bargained for. We met at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in South Minneapolis. I had no idea about the ways that CAFAC is giving back to our community. Luckily there are people like Heather to light the way, so to speak.
How long have you been teaching at the fire arts center?
I have been teaching at CAFAC since we opened our doors in the fall of 2010. I have been teaching sculptural welding and blacksmithing since 2002.
What's your day job?
I have many. I am a mom, first. I am one of the founders of CAFAC and now serve as its artistic director. I am also a metal sculptor and public art fabricator through my business, Industryelle: www.industryelle.com
What was one of the most rewarding moments you've had at the Fire Arts Center?
In 2006, I created "The SPEAK Project," a South Minneapolis public art initiative, produced in collaboration with FORECAST Public Artworks, which uses various forms of visual and performance art to encourage youth to explore the subject of diversity and express their voices through creativity. This year our community partner was County Home School. We worked with a group of incarcerated juvenile felons to create a piece which explored the sometimes maladaptive ways they tried to protect themselves in their complicated world with limited resources. These kids were amazing. Shields lifted and disappeared as we worked with empowering tools of fiery expression. I can't wait to show the world what they created and how it expressed the discussions we had around how they viewed themselves and their community.
Can you tell me about a few ways CAFAC is involved with the community at large?
As a community arts org we have become accustomed to being in the space between. We are of the community in that we live here, work here, and care deeply for what happens to this incredibly diverse and amazing place. We have been asked to dialogue and create art from concept to installation in highly charged emotional and political situations. We have a breadth of perspective as a community based volunteer organization. We are committed to being a catalyst for and participant in positive action in our neighborhood.
What are you most excited about for the future personally, creatively speaking?
Enamel on steel. We were recently approached by the city of Minneapolis to create a resource for public art that is arguably the best suited option for color on metal. Enamel (melted glass on steel substrate) has a permanence and design flexibility far beyond any coating currently available in our area. There are only 3 places in the country that can provide the technical assistance and scale required for this type of work and our center has built equipment and programming to accommodate it. Master enamelist, David Befriend, who has been one of the 3 sites in the country that do this scale of public art enameling is retiring this year. He trained me and helped design our studio to pass the torch, so that this amazing resource in public art would not be lost.
What's your next project?
Seed is a City of Minneapolis project, the John Biggers Seed Project (Seed) biggersseed.org is a public art and collaborative design effort that engages renowned African American artists in mentoring emerging artists in place-making by educating them about African American art and community history; providing career development and transferable skills and creating a sense of place that speaks to the culture of North Minneapolis. Seed is inspired by the Celebration of Life mural, an acclaimed public artwork led by John Biggers, a major African American artist of the twentieth century, who began the careers of young artists and organizations (including Obsidian Arts and Juxtaposition Arts), planting artistic “seeds” on the North Side.
How can people get involved with CAFAC and where can they find out about classes?
CAFAC is a non-profit that is completely volunteer run. You can visit our website at cafac.org and click volunteer to figure out where your skills fit best in our fiery space. Our focus is on fine and industrial art forms that are produced by heat, spark, or flame— CAFAC provides classes to anyone with an interest, from youth to adult and beginner to master.
Copy & Photography by Jennifer Sandquist