Welding Department Head Mark Metz Sends 750 Pound Sculpture On A Cross-Country Journey

Cathy Niland | 01.05.2022

The Watersound Monarch Art Trail is a new public art project in Walton County, Florida. The trail falls along the migration path of tens of thousands of Monarch butterflies who travel nearly 3,000 miles every year from the Northeastern United States to Southern Mexico.

In Spring of 2021, The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County put out a national call to artists for the public art project—a call that found its way to our Welding Department Head, Mark Metz.

“The project resonated with me because I’ve planted milkweed before, and I’ve given milkweed seeds to friends,” shared Mark. “The monarch butterfly life cycle depends completely on milkweed.”

Mark worked with artist George Eracleus to illustrate his concept for the project proposal.

After fabricating several public art projects over the past few years, Mark was ready to expand his portfolio outside the Bay Area. “My idea was kind of like the Alice in Wonderland caterpillar, but instead of smoking hookah, he’s munching on a milkweed leaf.”

Mark told us that the piece, titled The Milkweed King, was one of eight proposals accepted out of 40 submissions. “They loved it, and I was one of the artists selected!”

For five months, Mark fabricated his sculpture in our MIG Welding studio. The piece is primarily made up of scrap metal, and the leaves were created using materials from a previous project. “It was super great to recycle and repurpose metal for almost all of it. I was very happy with it.”

To decorate some parts of the sculpture, including the heart and the feet, Mark applied a flame carving technique using an oxy-acetylene torch. “You start with a sloppy cut, and when the metal is thick, you can’t help but create ridges. I intentionally wiggle around to give it a good texture.”

After the final applications of color, The Milkweed King, weighing approximately 750 pounds and measuring about 6 feet tall, was shipped 2,500 miles to its new home in Northwest Florida. Visitors to the park can download an app to hear Mark explain the story behind the piece and hear artistic inspiration from all of the participating artists.

Mark hopes to take his experience fabricating sizeable public art projects and share that knowledge with other artists, especially now that he is the Welding Department Head. “I think The Crucible is in the position to take on more public art projects. I am super lucky, humbled, and grateful for the fact that I’ve grown into this position. I think there is a lot of synergy between my personal trajectory and The Crucible.”

If you happen to be passing through Walton County, be sure to check out The Milkweed King at the Watersound Parkway in Rosemary Beach, Florida.

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