Since 1999, The Crucible Foundry & Gallery in Norman has been the factory home of art makers creating metal for great cities across the United States. There are fewer than five foundries in the country that match the Crucible's casting capabilities, according to the owners, but it's a combination of skilled workers and casting technology that attracts artists to this complex of workrooms, storage yards and offices at 110 E. Tonhawa. The central building's gallery and surrounding outdoor sculpture garden are open to the public.
"We get paid to do mostly public art," said Steven White, operations director of the foundry, which is owned by brothers Steve and Mark Palmerton. "It's exciting and satisfying to provide sculptures that make lives richer in the communities where they're installed. Fortunately, communities, civic groups and some individuals still realize art really does add value to their towns."
White said the foundry employs 15 full-time artisans, and cited two current major projects as examples of the work they do. One is Oklahoma sculptor Harold Holden's "Ranger," a recent casting bound for delivery to Northwestern Oklahoma State University's campus in Enid, the school home to the Rangers. The bronze version, which features an enormous man on a huge bucking bronco, should lend real drama to the school's motto of "Ride with Pride."
The other project cited was Colorado wildlife artist Jim Gilmore's 13-foot bronze buffalo, tipping in at more than 3 tons and slated for installation in South Dakota.
"He has another big buffalo that's on the turnpike up by Sapulpa," White said. "It was twice life-size and barely got out our doors."
Castings bound for other cities like Lawrence, Kan., and Jefferson City, Mo., fill The Crucible and are sculpted alongside works destined to stay within the state. A lithe bronze ballerina, sculpted by Norman artist Kim Walker Ray, will make its way to Broken Arrow.