DOMA Insider

The latest stories from the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State

Metal Casting Students Create Diverse and Unique Sculptures

Noelle Wiegand
Collections Management Intern

The Summer Art Series: Intro to Metal Casting students
The Summer Art Series: Intro to Metal Casting students

The Summer Art Series class, “Intro to Metal Casting” began by each student discussing who they were and why they were interested in the metal casting class. Many of the students stated that it’s something that they’ve always wanted to explore, but hadn’t had the opportunity. The students then discussed what they wanted to get out of the class. One of the students is an art teacher, and is hoping to incorporate casting into her class’s curriculum in the future.

The students walking through the galleries with Aaron. Aaron briefly explained how the items on view had been made.

Once the class established some goals, Aaron Nicholson, the instructor, began to explain various methods of casting. The class was first introduced to the casting process through video. With some brief knowledge on the casting process, the group ventured throughout the museum’s collection. The class looked at multiple cast objects throughout the museum, both on and off view. Aaron explained to the group how each object was made, cast, and finished.

The class experimenting with foam
The class experimenting with foam

The following day, the class began by meeting for an art history lesson that focused on metal casting objects throughout history. Many of the students gained inspiration from Nicholson’s presentation. The students then proceeded to experimented carving their future castings with blue and white Styrofoam. The students’ final projects would be carved out of the Styrofoam and then cast into aluminum. The following Saturday, Nicholson asked the students to bring in their final foam sculptures. The student’s sculptures were then attached to a main piece of foam called a sprue. The sprue acts as a channel for the aluminum to flow through. Once the foam sculptures had been sprued, the students painted them with a refractory. The refractory would act as a barrier between the sculpture and the sand. This refractory was made of various elements including zircon and clay. The students let their pieces dry completely before submerging them in the silicon sand.

The students pouring aluminum into their molds
The students pouring aluminum into their molds

The next step in the metal casting process was to create a funnel through which the metal was  poured. The students took ceramic pots and hammered a square hole in the bottom, to securely hold the sprue in place. Once the piece was sprued and assembled, the students could place their work into the silicon sand. The class used various metal buckets to encase the foam sculptures during the casting process. After the class placed their work into the sand, the furnace was then “charged.”  Charging is the process of putting metal into the crucible to melt. The class took turns pouring the molten aluminum into the mold. When the aluminum was poured onto the foam, the foam evaporated at the rate the metal was poured into the mold. This process is called evaporation casting. Once the metal had cooled, the class poured out the sand to expose their newly cast objects.

Una works carving designs into her casting

The final day of class was devoted to cleaning up the metal sculptures. The refractory that encased the aluminum had turned into a black and flaky substance. The students used metal brushes to clean the surface of the aluminum. Once the surface of the metal was clean, the sculptures were to be cut off of their sprues. The class used a portable band saw to remove the sprue from the sculptures. A set of files and metal brushes were used for additional clean up of the metal. The sculptures made by the class were diverse in subject matter. A few students went for a purely sculptural aesthetic, while others took the functional approach in the form of jewelry. The students enjoyed the workshop and the community style class was both fun and informative.

Jan created intricate jewelry in the metal class
Jan created intricate jewelry in the metal class


What’s Happening in July?

Hailey Beard
Public Relations Intern

It is the middle of summer and many may be looking for ways to do something fun and unique this month. The DOMA is offering indoor events for those who have been looking for something fun to do while we have been experiencing so much rain. We offer a variety of events from meditating to learning from an experienced docent.

Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson will also lead classes that teach the art of metal casting. In this class students will create their own sculptures in the class. “Metal casting is a creative process with a five thousand year history. Students will have the opportunity to make an object that could last perhaps even longer.” Nicholson states, emphasizes the longevity and importance of the works of art produced by metal casting.

The museum is the ideal place this summer to not only try something few will ever be able to experience, but it also is a museum where individuals of all ages can come and feel welcome.

What’s Happening in July?

10          Friday| 3-4 pm
Meditation in the Museum
Led by the Counseling Center, individuals may come to experience meditation in the beautiful museum. Bring a towel or a blanket, scarf, yoga mat, etc., for sitting on the floor. For more information on this program, please contact Dr. Sylwia Hodorek at

Metal casting
Metal casting

11, 12, 18 & 19
Saturday & Sunday | 1:30-4:30 pm
Summer Art Series: Introduction to Metal Casting
This workshop covers a variety of techniques pertaining to metal casting. Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson will lead students in a study of works in the museum collection and the techniques used in their making. Attendees will create a small cast aluminum sculpture during this workshop, which takes place during two weekends over the summer. Materials provided. AR 223, Fine Arts Building and Museum of Art. For ages 16 and up. Limited to 10 students. To Register: Cost: $120; $90 for Friends members & BSU students.

17         Friday | 3-4 pm
Meditation in the Museum
Dr. George Wolfe conducts a meditation session in the David Owsley Gallery of Asian Art. Dr. Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.Bring a towel or a blanket, scarf, yoga mat, etc., for sitting on the floor.

Monday-Friday | 1-4 pm
Art and Controversy- Grades 7-12

Explore issues of censorship in world art, including examples from the David Owsley Museum of Art, with docents and art teacher Margie Frank. Controversial art subjects related to current events, history, music, literature, and politics will be discussed. Middle and high school students will make the connection between the past and present and understand how censorship has impacted art for centuries. Through museum exploration, discussion, and debate, students will form their own personal philosophy, design posters, and develop a manifesto focused on issues of censoring artists. For more information visit, Scholarships are available.

24          Friday| 3-4 pm
Meditation in the Museum
Led by the Counseling Center, individuals may come to experience meditation in the beautiful museum. Bring a towel or a blanket, scarf, yoga mat, etc., for sitting on the floor.

Monday-Friday | 9 am-12 pmUntitled
Books and the Language of Art- Grades 3-5
Monday-Friday | 1-4 pm
Beats and the Rhythm of Art- Grades 3-5
Children in the 3rd-5th grade will explore books, music and art during a week in the David Owsley Museum of Art. Explore Ball State’s very own world-class art museum while you experience new cultures through their stories, unique sounds, and inspiring works of art. Campers will try their hand at art inspired by the 20th century prints, Pacific Northwest totem poles, mandalas, and scroll paintings. At the conclusion of the week, parents will be invited to a special celebration to jet set around the world and see where art, music, and literature have taken their camper all in a week’s time! For more information, visit Scholarships are available.

Painting Students Collaborate and Comment on Unique Class

Emily Dykstra
Education Intern

On Saturday, June 20, the David Owsley Museum of Art hosted a painting course that encouraged participants to explore a variety of painting mediums. Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson instructed the class with the intent to encourage the students to tap into their creative mindset through collaborative and individual painting. Nicholson approached the class with a relaxed agenda, letting the creativity of class participants expand.

Penny and Daniel Henderson receive instruction from Aaron Nicholson
The final painting from one of the class collaborations

“There are so many ways to take paint and use it,” Nicholson explained. “Start with a middle tone then go to dark, and add white highlights. Then things will pop,” Nicholson demonstrated the process on a blank canvas using numerous paints from basic house paint to oil paint.Stations were set up along tables with a variety of different paint types and utensils. Every fifteen minutes the stations switched and participants would make additions to the previous individual’s painting. Students were intrigued by the idea of collaborating and had positive outlooks on the activity.

One of the paintings from the class collaboration

“I have never done this kind of thing before…I am used to making my own painting,” class participant Sinu Zheng explained. Students painted freely with the knowledge that not one painting was specifically theirs alone. By the end of the activity, boards were filled with artwork that symbolized a blend of everyone’s individual style.

A floral bouquet painting done by Emily Dykstra

Nicholson then switched tactics during the final project of the session, which was an individual painting of a flower bouquet. Students were given a small board and were allowed to use  any of the mediums from the previous stations. One of the students, Daniel Henderson, comments that after the group collaboration he “had more control and understanding to make [the floral bouquet] come out right.”

The individuals in attendance enjoyed learning various painting techniques and forms. The students’ were able to learn in a beautiful and memorable environment while expanding their creativity.

There are two more of DOMA’s Summer Art series coming up:

Introduction to Metal Casting- July 11, 12, 18 & 19, 1:30-4:30 pm

Mixed Media Approaches to Sculpting- August 8, 1:30-4:30 pm

Register online at Come visit and learn with us here at the David Owsley Museum of Art!


Art and Interactivity with the Docents

Kayla Gurganus
Curatorial Assistant Intern


Invocation, Variation #3 inspired docents during the forum.

On Thursday, June 18, docents gathered for the final summer meeting to learn how to incorporate writing activities into museum visits. Using writing to understand art is much more than just a way to entertain visitors. Writing activities can make art more accessible by facilitating diverse learning possibilities and engaging visitors in a conversation about the art they see. The meeting was led by the DOMA’s director of education, Tania Said. She introduced the docents to a handful of different writing activities and an instructional video from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Coursera program. The activities included describing works of art in one’s own words, and testing memory by looking at a work of art for a minute before turning away from it and trying to jot down everything that was seen. The meeting was concluded with a handout with suggestions and examples for writing activities in the museum.

The focus of these activities was to emphasize the importance of interpretation in the galleries. People have different frames of reference through which they view and understand works of art. Group exercises centered on writing encourages a deeper analysis of both the art, and individual’s own ideas. Due to this focus, writing activities about art can easily complement school curriculums and visitors’ needs. Cathy Bretz, a docent and the Education Program Coordinator at the DOMA, states that the writing exercise “…demonstrated that writing about art can effectively encourage participation without the need to draft a lengthy essay.” To learn more about MoMA’s free, online program, please visit:

“Golden Glow” was also used for inspiration during the meeting

Docent meetings will resume during Ball State University’s Fall 2015 semester. All interested parties are welcome to apply to the docent program. More information can be found at the museum’s website:

Drawing Students Note Class Success

Emily Dykstra
Education Intern

11412244_906029156105067_4540063255137383152_nOn the first weekend in June, the David Owsley Museum of Art launched its first instructor-led, museum-sponsored drawing class. Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson led a very successful class according to the students who ranged in age from 16 to retirees.

The main objective of the two hour class involved introducing new drawing techniques to improve individual style, as well as reducing the time one uses to create a drawing. Participants gathered in the museum where Nicholson began the class with the question, “What is art to you?” Various opinions were exchanged on each individual’s personal meaning of art, after which everyone proceeded on a brief tour of the collections within the museum. 11406784_906029202771729_8290812166808460988_n

The group stopped in the Owsley Asian Art gallery, where Nicholson demonstrated the drawing process that he recommended for participants to use. A concept most people overlook when drawing are the angles that one can hold a pencil. Nicholson brought attention to the fact that pencils can be held in a variety of ways. He recommended that instead of holding a pencil in the classic writing position, one should attempt to hold the pencil so that the side of the graphite lays on the paper instead of the tip being pressed down. After his demonstration, the students were encouraged to wander the museum drawing anything displayed in the galleries.

lkjljklNicholson roamed the galleries to give assistance and helpful pointers throughout the class. Common struggles within the group included the need for precision when drawing objects, accurately scaling proportions, and the time concentrating on each sketch. However, as time progressed students gradually became more comfortable when drawing. ;lkl;k

At the end of the class, everyone gathered and performed a small critique which included the students talking about what they chose to sketch. There was an obvious improvement from the drawings conducted at the beginning of the class to the ones drawn after Nicholson’s guidance.

11407027_906029152771734_3201218469381801330_nThe David Owsley Museum of Art is hosting more programs taught by museum instructor Aaron Nicholson. The upcoming Summer Art Series classes are:

Exploring Painting Media- June 20, 2-4 pm

Introduction to Metal Casting- July 11, 12, 18 & 19, 1:30-4:30 pm

Mixed Media Approaches to Sculpting- August 8, 1:30-4:30 pm

Register online at for a reasonable per class cost. Discounts for museum members and BSU students apply. Come visit and learn with us here at the David Owsley Museum of Art!

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