Las Vegas, N.M. – Molten metal flung against a wall will burst into a spectacular display of pyrotechnics during Highlands University’s Iron Tribe 2019 performance casting event on Feb. 28 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Students from 10 universities will participate in Iron Tribe 2019.

The sparkling highlight of the iron pour performance is based upon Dashuhua, the ancient Chinese Festival of Lights tradition that is still popular during the Chinese New Year. The event will be in the parking lot at the northwest corner of 7th Street and Douglas Avenue in Las Vegas.

“We’ve added to the iron performance this year with a fiery and playful rendition of the game Hungry Hungry Hippos performed by Fort Hays State University students,” said Highlands fine arts professor David Lobdell, who established the biennial Iron Tribe event in 2001. “There’s a fascination with watching fire transform material like iron. The drama of nighttime contrasting with the explosion of molten metal being thrown against the wall makes for a compelling visual and primal experience.”

Lobdell said an Iron Tribe record of more than 1,400 pounds of metal will be melted on-site in the university’s furnace to roughly 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit for the fiery iron performance.

The closing reception for the Iron Tribe 2019 iron art sculpture exhibit is March 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. in Burris Hall Gallery, 903 University Ave. It features 90 leading international and American contemporary iron artists as well as photographers, painters and fine-art print makers.

“This exhibit is worthy of an exhibition in any gallery or museum in the world for its innovation, craftsmanship and collective vision. This exhibit is as much about the culture of iron casting artists as it is about iron art,” Lobdell said.

Lobdell said experienced fine arts students in his Exhibit Design Class are involved in every aspect of Iron Tribe 2019.

“Iron Tribe is a transformative experience for our Highlands fine arts students where they grow professionally and artistically,” said Lobdell, who chairs the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Highlands.

Photo of molten metal sparkling in the night

An iron artist creates a fiery display during the Iron Tribe 2017 performance iron pour at Highlands. Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

Toby Flores is a noted cast iron sculptor who has exhibited his art at every Iron Tribe since its inception at Highlands. He is a fine-arts professor at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

“David is a very thoughtful and knowledgeable international leader in the iron art movement,” Flores said. “He’s like the glue that connects iron artists from across the country and globally. David is highly respected for his experience and innovative artwork. His work is narrative-based with each piece telling a story.”

Flores said Lobdell is very encouraging with all students, not just his own, seeing the potential in young artists and nurturing them.

“I’m bringing a contingent of 17 of my art students from Fort Hays to Iron Tribe this year,” Flores said.

Lobdell said the common thread for iron artists is the blast furnace that brings them together to melt metal for their cast pieces.

“Iron art casting has a strong primordial element that connects us to the universe. When we see a shooting star, that’s a hunk of iron ignited in the sky,” Lobdell said.

He said the Western Cast Iron Art Alliance grew out of Iron Tribe in 2008. Lobdell still serves on the board for the nonprofit.

Other public Iron Tribe 2019 events include:

Symposium – March 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Burris Hall, Lecture Room 129. The featured speaker is Christopher Thomson, a Northern New Mexico forged-steel artist known for his hand-forged sculptures and architectural ironworks as well as forged steel lamps, sconces and furniture.

Production Casting Session – March 2 from 9 a.m. until completion, Highlands University art foundry, 914 11th St.

For more information about Iron Tribe 2019, contact Lobdell at 505-454-3570 or