Waupaca Foundry Gray Iron Castings Help Complete Community Project

By Sara Timm

One doesn’t necessarily associate “Waupaca Foundry” with “fine arts,” but visitors to Waupaca’s South Park might do just that when they see a new sculpture on display.

Last year’s Arts on the Square project, “Tell Your Story in the Tiles,” yielded 216 iron tiles created by community members with the assistance of artists and Waupaca Foundry employees. The solution for to what to do with these tiles was part of a yearlong collaboration between Waupaca Foundry, the Community Arts Board, and the Waupaca Parks Department.

Photo Caption: Andy Grenlie works on tightening a tile on Thursday, Sept. 4 in the Waupaca Foundry Research and Development Fab Shop. Photo credit: Angie Landsverk
Photo Caption: Andy Grenlie works on tightening a tile on Thursday, Sept. 4 in the Waupaca Foundry Research and Development Fab Shop. Photo credit: Angie Landsverk

Waupaca Foundry and the Community Arts Board met several times throughout the year. After weighing options as to where and how the tiles could be used, the group decided that the pieces should be given back to the community in the form of a sculpture. Waupaca Foundry, represented by Michael Hemmila, assistant maintenance manager, took charge of the structural design. Hemmila developed a circular design with the tiles bolted onto a cylinder of stainless steel, rolled rings.

Hemmila said they took into consideration the varied thicknesses of the tiles, the equal importance of each one, and determined that a cylinder would be the best way to connect the pieces. The structure would also be accessible for handicapped viewers, since it would sit on a slab of concrete and be slightly raised from the ground. A poem scripted in cut out letters would surround the top of the piece.

For Hemmila, the project was a neat change of pace for him and his colleagues, and it would not have been possible without the help of outside vendors who made the rolled stainless steel rings and crafted the letters of the poem. The sculpture was a true collaboration in every aspect, from the Foundry working with generous outside vendors, to the Foundry meeting with the Community Arts Board and Parks Department, to the people of Waupaca themselves who contributed to the project.

The result was a harmonious blend of industry and the arts, a monument to the collaborative abilities of all involved and a 3500-pound symbol of Waupaca Foundry’s commitment to the community.