Home News Metals In Art: Fusing Innovation Into Education

Metals In Art: Fusing Innovation Into Education

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Burlington High School metals teacher Chris Sharp, second from left, poses with juniors Libby Branch and Kendal Pace, and sophomore Ryan Mitchell. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register
Burlington High School metals teacher Chris Sharp, second from left, poses with juniors Libby Branch and Kendal Pace, and sophomore Ryan Mitchell. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register

Junior Sky Rahill signed up for metals class with the sole motivation of fulfilling his required arts credit. However, a year of instruction and experimentation with manipulating metal unlocked an enriching new hobby for him.

Rahill, who entered the class with no prior knowledge of the craft, now designs and produces unique projects on a regular basis.

Among these projects, Rahill’s favorites include a small motorcycle sculpture that he designed for his father and a miniature survival kit that he built completely out of metal. While Rahill still doesn’t see himself chasing a future in the arts, he is confident in recommending the course to anyone seeking an inspiring oasis in their academic schedules.  

“You can open a creative part of your brain through metals,” Rahill said.  “And everyone can benefit from that.” 

A student works on their metals project in Chris Sharp's art class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register
A student works on their metals project in Chris Sharp’s art class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register

Art teacher and BHS alumnus Chris Sharp has taught metals at the high school for over 25 years. His own interest in metals began as a high schooler in a BHS metals class.  After graduation, Sharp craved the challenge and reward his metals class had offered; he continued to create.  

After working with more ephemeral types of art and sculpture in New York City, Sharp returned to Burlington to study at University of Vermont.  It was there that he resurrected his interest in manipulating metal.  After attending graduate school at University of Connecticut, and running the college’s metals studio, Sharp cemented his love for the durability and creative freedom that metals provide as an art form.  

“I really like the permanency of metal and the application of it to projects that are public projects,” Sharp said.  “Metal can withstand the elements and it can be out in the public for people to engage with it without it getting destroyed.”  

Listen to Chris Sharp talk about his program:

While Sharp places a strong emphasis on technique and aesthetic skills in his class, he also hones in on skills that are not exclusive to metals, or even to the arts.  

“As we are moving into a global economy, into a world where the United States’ labor is at a high enough premium that we need to be problem-solving, creative thinkers, this class provides the skills that allow people to develop a life, a career, and a passion for being innovative and inventive and not just following the rules of other people,” Sharp said.

He strives to provide students with essential tools to problem solve and think critically, regardless of the disciplines they choose to pursue.

A student works on a project during metals in art class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register
A student works on a project during metals in art class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register

“[Sharp] is always there to provide direction for our projects, and help us recognize and solve any problems we are having in any stage,” Rahill said.  

“When [students] address a problem, they can dare to think of solutions that are not the expected solutions,”  Sharp said.  

Sharp brings his own unique joy and enthusiasm to the classroom, through which he successfully draws student enthusiasm for the arts.  

“I decided to take metals after both of my brother’s highly recommended Chris’s teaching style,” metals student Marley Tipper said. “After taking the course, I have learned a new art form and found a good friend in a teacher.”

Sharp encourages students to test the limits in every aspect of their art. In fact, he defines time as the only limitation within the metals program. While he maintains a fast-paced and independent work environment to allow for students to accomplish as much as they possibly can, Sharp struggles to condense all the information he has to offer into a one-year course.   

A student saws a piece of metal during a class taught by Chris Sharp. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register
A student saws a piece of metal during a class taught by Chris Sharp. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register

“I bump into the limitations of the school year and all the agendas that happen during the school year,” Sharp said. “From late start Wednesdays, to the YES program, to advisory, everything cuts into the day a little bit. I’m trying to find that balance of how to keep my program pushing forward while satisfying all the other needs of the school year in terms of time that everyone has to give in.”

Regardless of physical time limitations, Sharp seeks to create a safe and welcoming space for all students, in both the classroom, and in the arts as a discipline.  

“I hope to, first and foremost, give people a class that is so enjoyable to them that it gives them a reason to get up in the morning, and gets them excited about coming to school,” he said.

“With classes like this art class,

A student saws into a piece of metal during class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register
A student saws into a piece of metal during class. | Photo: Jake Bucci/Register

where individuals are encouraged to think beyond themselves, outside themselves, in new and inventive ways – when they find the career and path that they want to choose and bring creativity and invention into it- then they will achieve more and find greater success.”

 

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