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April 24, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
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Art professor emeritus sculpts legacy

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – It’s not that he doesn’t like paintings, fiber or ceramics – he does. It’s just that James Myford, Slippery Rock University professor emeritus of art, has a different passion – aluminum sculpture. “I just really fell in love with that particular metal,” he said.

            Myford, who taught at SRU from 1968-1997, is an internationally known sculptor. Sunday his fame will be celebrated closer to home. SRU’s Art Sculpture Building will be renamed the James C. Myford Art Sculpture Building in recognition of his contributions as an artist and educator. The festivities will take place during a reception at 2 p.m. at the facility.

            Speakers will include Charles Curry, acting SRU president; Tom Como, associate professor of art; Glen Brunken, art professor emeritus and a former colleague of Myford’s; Josh Young, chair of the Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees, and Myford.

            Self-guided tours of the inaugural Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition will follow. Myford and Robert Smith, SRU president emeritus, conceived the outdoor display, which features 10 sculptures, including Myford’s “Triangle Form.”

            “The idea is to introduce the public to outdoor sculptures,” Myford said. “I just think it brings another dimension to the University in the sense of beauty and outdoor spaces.”

            Myford, who specializes in cast and fabricated aluminum sculptures, said the building renaming provokes feelings of pride and nostalgia for his teaching career. A specialist in small and large-scale aluminum works, Myford said he involved students in his own art and exhibitions because of the educational value.

             “What I was always interested in was expanding the classroom at Slippery Rock University,” he said. “Students helped me with bigger commissions, such as ALCOA, and they would go with me to set up shows in Chicago, Florida and Toronto.”

            Myford said his interest in aluminum began in 1969 when he attended a workshop sponsored by ALCOA in the Art Center in Pittsburgh. He then began creating contemporary aluminum sculptures by using the casting process.

            “Before that, I was doing a lot of wood, which doesn’t hold up as well outdoors,” he said.

            Over the years, Myford said he has created and sold many sculptures to both private and corporate collections in the U.S. and Japan, Sweden, Venezuela, Australia and Brazil. He said he creates about 15 sculptures a year and can be working on as many as six at a time. Larger sculptures take up to 10 months to complete.

            At SRU, he started as an instructor and moved up to professor. He also served as art department chairperson from 1987-1993. He has statues permanently displayed in front of SRU’s Swope Music Hall and in downtown Slippery Rock.

            Myford said his work, while abstract, is linked to nature and reality. “Materials become humanized when rearranged by my ideas, feelings and hands,” he said. “This concept has been the root systems, the inspiration and the energy source for my sculpture.”

            He has received numerous awards for his work including the Environmental Award of Excellence from ALCOA, First Place Sculpture Award from the Bruce Museum in Connecticut and Outstanding Educators Award from the Pennsylvania Art Education Association.

            “Triangular Form,” installed in front of Spotts World Culture Building, was originally commissioned to represent the research triangle in Chapel Hill/Raleigh, N.C. When the project fell through, Myford said he created a smaller version for local display.

            “I liked the piece enough that I went ahead and did it,” he said.
            Myford said Smith first suggested naming the building after him two years ago. The $1.25-million building opened in fall 2009, giving students a larger facility for creating works in clay, metal, wood and other materials.

            The building includes new computers with three-dimensional applications, a Prometheus unit and lecture hall. The Prometheus unit enables professors to share images and connect to Internet sites to further explain art concepts.

            The 5,100-square foot facility, across from the President’s House, includes a woodworking shop, welding and casting room and a main lecture hall that doubles as a sculpture classroom. Learning amenities include mounted saws and sanders, a blacksmith forge and loading dock.