Center for Metal Arts

Florida school looks to introduce itself to community, attract new students, artists

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  • Patrick Quinn, CMA forging studio coordinator, forging parts for a sculpture with a power hammer.

  • From left to right, Nick Anger, visiting instructor from Vermont, Dave Kurdyla , volunteer from Warwick and Kyle Martin, CMA employee at CMA, hot cutting steel with a striker.

  • Photos provided by Dan Neville Marissa Ziesing, a metalsmith from Australia, is the Resident Artist with the Center for Metal Arts for two months.

  • Dan Neville (center left, seated) teaching a raising workshop in the metalsmithing studio.

By Abby Wolf

— Have you ever been in your home workshop, searching for the "right tool for the job," "were unable to find it, and thought: "I wish I could make my own tools."

Have you ever been to a craft fair or jewelry shop, marveled at the beautiful works in silver and were inspired to make your own jewelry?

Did you ever have the burning desire to work molten metal over a forge?

If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, those dreams can become a reality if you take a quick trip to a quiet street in the Village of Florida, home of the Center for Metal Arts.

Jewelry and blacksmithingLocated in a three-story converted former local icehouse, the center teaches students metalsmithing for both toolmaking and jewelry making and blacksmithing.

“It’s about a 50-50 split (between jewelry and smithing)," said Dan Neville, one of the CMA’s instructors. "There is a lot of toolmaking because there’s a lot of tools you can’t necessarily buy (anymore).”

All students have access to whatever tools they need, he continued, because they make them on-site.

As to jewelry: “Some things are traditional, but some are more sculptural, like forming metal.”

Neville said that students begin with copper and brass, eventually advancing to working in Sterling silver.

It begins with Edward and Rhoda MackThe school was founded in 2003 by Edward Mack and his wife, Rhoda. According to the center’s website, Mack was a recipient in 2012 of the Julius Blum award, given to “an individual or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the metal arts industry.”

After Edward Mack’s passing in 2013, according to Neville, Rhoda “put out the call for new blood” in hopes of continuing the work of the Center.

“She wanted the business to continue…she brought us (Neville and fellow Center instructor Patrick J. Quinn) on, showed us the ropes.”

Neville received his BFA in metalsmithing from Wayne State University in Detroit and has recently completed a MFA in metalsmithing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

He teaches jewelry and metalsmithing, as well as offering private lessons in jewelry making. Neville added that he does workshops and brings in visiting artists to teach more specialized classes.

“Pat’s in charge of blacksmithing, forging iron, stuff like that.”

Forty courses, small-sized classes The center offers a structured environment, with manageably small-sized classes – limited to about eight students per class.

“We feel that’s a good number for students to get attention … (it’s) easier to manage,” Neville said.

Some 40 courses are offered each year, evenly divided between jewelry making and blacksmithing:

“Thirty of those are taught by Pat Quinn and myself; the rest by visiting artists/teachers for more advanced things/techniques," he said, "so students can get a different perspective.”

Visiting instructors have come from as far away as Philadelphia; Austin, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Detroit – sometimes, even from outside the 50 states.

“One of my students came from Israel," Neville said, "to take a specialized metalsmithing class toward a Doctorate in the subject.”

The center offers an internship program, as well as Artist-in-Residence.

“We have an Australian jeweler,” Neville said, who came to learn and be in “a new environment and work on her personal work.”

Although the center offers courses for all skill and background levels, beginners are absolutely welcome.”

Neville noted that while traditionally “blacksmithing tends to (have) more men, (and) women lean toward jewelry … everyone can do both. We try to push people to try everything."

The students come in all flavors, too.

“Such a range - 18 to 75 year olds, men and women.”

There is an excitement, Neville, added about "working with your hands. The best part for me as an instructor is seeing students excited about something they’ve made.’’

Essential informationThe Center for Metal Arts is located at 44 Jayne Street in the Village of Florida.

To sign up for classes, email the Center: or call 845 651-7550.

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