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DTE Energy commercial showcases ancient artistic technique done in Grand Valley foundry

  • A production company shoots scenes from the foundry for the Department of Visual and Media Arts.

Posted on June 24, 2019

The foundry that is part of the Department of Visual and Media Arts is featured in a recent DTE Energy commercial, giving viewers a chance to see part of an ancient casting technique that Grand Valley artists regularly execute for projects.

The GVSU foundry can be seen about midway through the 30-second spot. With the university's logo in the background, artists pour molten bronze while the announcer talks about "igniting imaginations." Watch the video here.

Faculty members jumped at the chance to showcase their foundry work after learning that production company representatives were looking to showcase the imagery of heated metal being poured in an art setting. 

"We quickly said, 'We do it here,'" said Giles Hefferan, 3D technical supervisor for the department.

Hefferan, one of the Grand Valley artists seen in the commercial, said they were able to quickly set up for the video shoot because they have the system in place and they had a test piece to use. 

The bronze is heated to 2,150 degrees and poured over a mold as part of a multi-step process called lost wax casting, a technique that is 6,000 years old, Hefferan said. The entire process, which includes layering multiple coats of materials on a piece and time in a kiln, usually takes an artist about a week to complete, or about five weeks of class time. 

"This represents Grand Valley well because it is exactly what we do in our classes in terms of the process," said Kim Roberts, professor of film and media production and department chair.

Hosting a professional shoot also gave film and video students a chance to observe and take images of the process that involved dozens of workers and gave students an authentic experience, right down to a food table that often accompanies such settings, Roberts said.