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Scrap Metal Art

What’s that?

You say you don’t know much about art — but that you wouldn’t mind having a go of it with a plasma cutter, welding torch and pile of scrap metal?

Then the Monongalia County Technical Education Center would have been a good gallery for you Thursday.

The center on Mississippi Street hosted a specialized art competition employing the above elements that day.

“Scrap MTEC” was part of a new outreach program through the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.

“This is a fun one,” said Monica Cross, executive director of the association’s “Explore the New Manufacturing” division.

“It’s a way for them to test their skills and their creativity,” she said.

Cross had to yell to make herself heard.

That’s because all that art that was ensuing in the middle of teacher Don Robinette’s welding room at MTEC wasn’t being born quietly.

There were clangs, rattles and chonks — followed by more clangs, rattles and chonks.

Teams from Monongalia, Preston and Marion counties worked to test their creative mettle in that pile of scrap metal provided by Progressive Industries, a Morgantown company that dropped off the stuff.

“Yeah, we basically just started grabbing pieces and sections,” said Lucas Pethtel, 18, an MTEC welding student from Fairmont.

MTEC is hosting their 1st Annual Welding Competition on Thursday, Jeffery Parker of Preston County, welds on his Scrap Medal Art piece.

“Then, we had to look at what kind of metal we had, and how it was going to react from heat of the cutting and welding.”

Somebody also had to usher the muse onto the shop floor.

“We had to come up with an idea in our head,” he said.

Robinette, meanwhile, liked the arc of the thought process.

“That’s how it works in the real world,” he said.

 “Employers are looking for people who know how to think. I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with.”

Pethtel’s team was coming up with an abstract depiction of a coal miner, complete with a welded-together pickaxe and helmet with a light.

That piece and the others will eventually be on display in a gallery show at Arts Mon, said Heather Cyphert, who owns and operates Progressive Industries with her husband, Greg.

“Pretty exciting,” she said.

And pretty exacting, in the case of the project undertaken by Leah Weeder’s team. She’s a 17-year-old from Morgantown whose team was crafting a symbolic representation of a work shirt.

“We figured we’d do a uniform since we’re celebrating blue-collar workers,” she said.

“The shirt collar is actually going to be blue,” she said. That’s the hue the metal turns when it’s heated just so.”

“And that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about,” Robinette said.