Orange-hot aluminum was poured into molds Saturday afternoon in a downtown Lexington parking lot as a community art project intended to increase awareness of domestic violence began to take shape.
The end result will be a mural composed of 100 aluminum tiles, each one made from a carving done by a woman or child who has experienced domestic violence.
"More than anything, this was a platform for Lexington to open dialogue about domestic violence," said Niah Soult, an art therapist who works with the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program and organized the Tiles for Relief project.
Soult said she designed the mural, which depicts a woman in mid-scream, with the help of women in the domestic violence program by asking the question, "What does relief look like?"
The image was then turned into a grid of 5-by-7 inch rectangles. Women and children served by the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program and the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center at the University of Kentucky carved individual portions of the overall image into molds made of sand and resin.
On Saturday, sculptors from the nonprofit Sculpture Trails Traveling Foundry poured hot aluminum into the molds to create the tiles, which were numbered and will be reassembled to create a mural later.
For Sculpture Trails, such events are a form of outreach.
"It's an easy introductory way to expose people to fire arts sculpture," said Andy Light, a full-time sculptor who serves as president of the Sculpture Trails board of directors.
Many of the volunteers who work with the organization, which also has an outdoor sculpture museum in Solsberry, Ind., are students, alumni or instructors in the UK Art Department, Light said.
As onlookers gathered around, eight people clad in heavy brown leather heated a container of aluminum to 1,500 degrees.
They skimmed the impurities from the top, then quickly and carefully poured the liquid metal into the shallow molds previously carved by the women and children.
As the metal cooled, the molds broke and fell away, leaving metal tiles that were further cooled in a bucket of water.
Finally, said Jim Wade, vice president of the Sculpture Trails board of directors, the sharp edges would be ground down, a patina would be added and the tiles would be polished.
The original plan for the mural to be mounted on the side of a building at High Street and Limestone fell through, Soult said, and a new location has not yet been found. She said the goal is to find a "highly visible" spot near downtown for the work.
The mural is one way to give a place in the community to women and children affected by domestic violence, said Darlene Thomas, executive director of the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program.
"They're feeling helpless," she said. "Domestic violence makes people feel like 'I don't fit. I don't belong.'"
Being a part of a group project that will serve as a lasting reminder to the community changes that, she said.
Soult said she liked the idea of working with aluminum because it is permanent and doesn't rust.
"For me, that was symbolic of a survivor," she said.