Arts Education Artist Page

Melanie VanHouten

Visual Arts and Crafts

Melanie VanHouten is a sculptor from Frankfort, KY.  She earned a BFA from UK in 98 and an MFA from the University of Minnesota in 02.  Her work combines traditional processes and materials with contemporary approaches, such as the creation of site specific installations. 

Melanie’s work has been on exhibition across the U.S. and abroad; including the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Phipps Center for Art (WI), Franconia Sculpture Park (MN), Northern Arizona University Art Museum, and Coalbrookedale Historic Site in Teleford, England. 

She is the founder of Josephine Sculpture Park, a non-profit arts organization that provides an opportunity for the public to interact with the artwork and the artists daily.  Its focus is community arts education while conserving our rural landscape; a unique place where each member of our community can begin to experience art on her own terms. 

Potential Residency Project

Cast aluminum reliefs – landscape as self portrait, HS, 4 weeks. 

I envision this project taking place, in part at Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort.  There, we would meet outside to be inspired by and begin sketching the landscape around us.  We would return again for the actual metal casting part of the project.

Week 1: writing/sketching 
Week 2: mold making 
Week 3: casting 
Week 4: finishing and critique

  • Project goals & teaching format


  1. To develop a personal connection to the earth/landscape…are you a tree, or a flower, or a rock, etc. 

  2. To be able to create a personal symbolism and integrate that into the perceived concept of landscape. 

  3. To understand the reverse relationship of mold to casting.

  4. To be able to communicate your ideas clearly. 

The format would include guiding students from their written responses, through a series of 5 sketches and finally to the metal casting and finishing processes.  I would provide written examples, one on one discussion of ideas, and technical demonstrations.

  • This project integrates elements of science, art, writing and math.  It encourages a student to develop her own voice and consider how she defines herself in relation to the rest of world.  She will begin with an informal writing exercise to brainstorm ideas that she will develop into 5 different designs that she’ll sketch.  She will have to utilize math to measure her materials and build her mold, will gain an understanding of physics through the metal casting process, and ultimately she will employ the principles and elements of design to create an aesthetically interesting relief sculpture that communicates her ideas clearly.

  • Parents would be encouraged to attend the aluminum pour, which is a very exciting event!  The students can explain the process to the parents as we pour their molds and they can share the experience and learn together.

  • Students will have to address this challenge from many perspectives to develop their initial 5 sketches.  After discussing their ideas, they’ll decide on the final concept and then consider how to transform their mold into a relief sculpture.  Mold making and casting have a reverse relationship; what is deep in your mold will be high in your casting, what goes to the left, will flow to the right, and so on.  Each student will also be developing a personal symbolism and integrating that into the “landscape” concept.

  • Beginning art projects with informal writing reiterates that art is a form of communication as well as creative expression.  This project will begin with written exercises that develop into sketches, which will evolve into a relief sculpture cast in aluminum.

  • Using the existing landscape as inspiration, the students will free write about their relationship to the earth and its elements.  This practice sparks many associations that they will investigate; they will eventually develop these into a personal symbolism and abstract landscape.

  • Arts education empowers individuals and opens paths to new ways of thinking.  It encourages each person to see the full potential of his or her being.  This project allows students a hands-on experience with aluminum casting and the outdoors.  They will be seeing, writing about, drawing, and experiencing the landscape in new ways as they communicate their ideas about who they are in relation to the land.