Northwest Passage offers fire arts opportunities

Students at Northwest Passage High School, a charter school in Coon Rapids, have many opportunities to learn about and experience fire arts.

The school has partnered with the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center to help expose students to fire arts, art created using heat, spark or flame.

Between seven and 10 students from Northwest Passage High School participate in the Fire Arts Club, which has met several times throughout the school year to prepare for field trips to the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center. While at the center, students participate in blacksmithing and oxy-acetylene welding.

Students met several times with art teacher Elise Nyenhuis before heading to the Fire Arts Center. During those meetings, students examined photos of welding sculptures and brainstormed ideas.

Alexis Arntzen, a junior at Northwest Passage High School, said her experience with the Fire Arts Club has been fun and students get the chance to form new relationships. Arntzen has experience creating various types of artwork, and called fire arts a “very interesting medium to work with.”

Northwest Passage students also have the opportunity to participate in a fire arts class, which will take place later this spring. The fire arts class, led by Nyenhuis, will explore the history of humanity’s use of fire to create tools and art. The class will give students the opportunity to experiment with blacksmithing, lost wax casting and cuttlefish bone casting during field trips to the Chicago Fire Arts Center.

As part of Northwest Passage’s expedition offerings, Nyenhuis will also lead a blacksmithing-focused trip in May. This will be a three-day expedition for a group of six students who will travel to the North House Folk School in Grand Marais. The trip will be a service learning opportunity as students will create metal work for the blacksmith forge and shop. They’ll also create their own projects and take a tour of the Folk School.

Northwest Passage students practice aluminum casting at Bethel University. Photos submitted Northwest Passage student Shannon Herrlin tries out oxy-actylene welding in last year’s fire arts class. Northwest Passage student Bailey Miracle practices oxy-actylene welding at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center last year.
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Northwest Passage student Bailey Miracle practices oxy-actylene welding at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center last year.